Oscar Pistorius trial: Steenkamp standing when shot, expert says

The chief prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial says he plans to wrap up his case early next week after calling four or five more witnesses.

Police Capt. Christiaan Mangena provides details of how Reeva Steenkamp was shot

The chief prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial says he plans to wrap up his case early next week after calling four or five more witnesses.

Judge Thokozile Masipa granted a request on Wednesday from prosecutor Gerrie Nel to adjourn the trial until Monday so that Nel has time to consult his last witnesses. No court session was scheduled on Friday, which is a national holiday in South Africa.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux said the trial is expensive and he does not want to delay proceedings. He did not object to Nel's request.

Pistorius has been charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013. The athlete acknowledges he fatally shot her, but says it was a mistake. 

In the Pretoria court Wednesday, a police ballistics expert testified that Steenkamp was standing in a toilet cubicle and facing the closed door when she was hit in the right hip by the first of four hollow point bullets fired at her by Pistorius.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he has four or five more witnesses to call before concluding his case against Pistorius. (Themba Hadebe/Reuters)

Steenkamp then fell back onto a magazine holder in the cubicle and was struck in the right arm and head by the last two shots fired by Pistorius with his 9 mm pistol through the door. 

Pistorius's girlfriend crossed her arms over her head to protect herself, Capt. Christiaan Mangena said, when she was hit in the arm and head. He testified that he believed the second bullet shot missed Steenkamp and ricocheted off a wall inside the cubicle and broke into fragments, which caused bruising on her back.

Mangena concluded through his analysis of the shooting scene and wounds on Steenkamp's body from post-mortem photographs that one of the final two bullets went through Steenkamp's left hand before penetrating her skull as she held it over her head. The policeman said he couldn't determine the order of the last two shots.

As Mangena threw his hands up to cover his head in court and replicate the "defensive position" he said Steenkamp took as the last shots were fired, Pistorius put his fingers in his ears in an apparent attempt to block out the testimony.

June Steenkamp, Reeva's mother, also was in the courtroom and occasionally glanced at photos of the bloody scene of her daughter's shooting before looking away.

Shots fired at close distance

Police ballistics expert Mangena said the bullet that struck Steenkamp's skull broke into two fragments, one of which exited her head and struck the wall behind her. The first shot into the right hip broke Steenkamp's hip bone, Mangena said.

"I'm of the opinion that after this wound was inflicted, my lady, she dropped immediately," Mangena said, addressing the judge in court under questioning from prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Steenkamp slumped into a "seated or semi-seated position" on top of the magazine rack in the cubicle, where she was hit another two times, he said.

Trial reveals iPad web history

Col. Mike Sales investigated the web history on two iPad found in Pistorius's home, including one used hours before Steenkamp was killed.

Around 6.30 p.m. South African time on Feb. 13, according to records shown on TV monitors in court, a search was made on Google for a pornographic website.

Pistorius’s lawyer asked Sales if his investigation showed who was using the device at the time. Sales replied he was unsure.

"She ended up with her head on top of the toilet seat, and the lower part of her body on the rack, Mangena said.

Pistorius fired from a distance of at least 60 centimetres and no further than a wall behind him, about three metres away, Mangena said. Mangena also described the impact of the type of bullets in Pistorius's gun, which were designed to cause maximum damage, he said.

"It hits the target, it opens up, it creates six talons, and these talons are sharp," Mangena said. "It cuts through the organs of a human being."

He noted the Black Talon brand of ammunition was often used for self-defence because while it caused significant damage to a human target, it was less likely to penetrate the first target and hit other people.

Defence to challenge ballistics testimony

Oscar Pistorius covered his ears as police Capt. Christiaan Mangena testified about where Reeva Steenkamp was hit by bullets. (Themba Hadebe/Reuters)
​Pistorius lawyer Barry Roux cross-examined Mangena and said the defence's own forensic and ballistic experts would challenge the policeman's testimony regarding the sequence of the shots. Roux also said defence experts had recovered a bullet and fragments from the toilet bowl that police missed. Mangena said he was aware of that.

Mangena testified he conducted shooting tests to try to pinpoint the location from which the bullets were fired by Pistorius in the bathroom, based on where cartridge cases were found. However, in his tests, he said, the cases fell at different angles. He also noted that the cartridge cases at the scene of Steenkamp's shooting could have been "moved or kicked around" during the investigation.

He said Pistorius was probably on his stumps when he fired, supporting the athlete's statement that he was not wearing his prosthetic limbs when he opened fire.


  • An earlier headline for this story said the Oscar Pistorius murder trial may end next week. In fact, the prosecution may wrap its case, but the trial is then set to hear from Pistorius's defence.
    Mar 19, 2014 12:49 PM ET