PRETORIA, South Africa — The prosecution case against Oscar Pistorius began to unravel on Wednesday with revelations of a series of police blunders and the lead investigator’s admission that authorities have no evidence challenging the double-amputee Olympian’s claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally.
Detective Hilton Botha’s often confused testimony left prosecutors rubbing their heads in frustration.
The second day of what was supposed to be a mere bail hearing almost resembled a full-blown trial for the 26-year-old runner, with his lawyer, Barry Roux, tearing into Botha’s testimony step by step during cross examination.
Police, Botha acknowledged, left a 9 mm slug from the barrage that killed Reeva Steenkamp inside a toilet and lost track of illegal ammunition found inside the house.
Pistorius, who faces a charge of premeditated murder in the Valentine’s Day slaying says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and shot her out of fear, while prosecutors say he planned the killing and attacked her as she cowered behind a locked bathroom door.
New details of the shooting appeared to call into question Pistorius’ account of the moments leading up to the model’s death.
Ballistic evidence, Botha said, showed the bullets that killed her had been fired from a height, supporting the prosecution’s assertion that Pistorius was wearing prosthetic legs when he took aim at the bathroom door.
The athlete has maintained he was standing only on his stumps, and felt vulnerable and frightened as he opened fire from a low position.
Projecting a diagram of the bedroom and bathroom, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said it showed Pistorius had to walk past his bed to get to bathroom and could not have done so without seeing that Steenkamp was not asleep there.
“There’s no other way of getting there,” Nel said in disputing Pistorius’ claim that he had no idea Steenkamp was no longer in bed when he pumped four bullets into the bathroom door, striking her with three.
Botha backed the prosecutor up, saying the holster for Pistorius’ 9 mm pistol was found under the left side of the bed, where Steenkamp slept, and it would have been impossible for Pistorius to get the gun without checking to see if she was there.
“I believe that he knew that Reeva was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door,” the detective said.
Botha described how bullets struck Steenkamp in the head and shattered her right arm and hip, eliciting sobs from Pistorius, who held his head in hands.
However, when asked if Steenkamp’s body showed “any pattern of defensive wounds” or bruising from an assault, Botha said “no.” He again responded “no” when asked if investigators found anything inconsistent with Pistorius’ version of events, though he later said nothing contradicted the police version either.
Testimony began with the prosecutor telling the court that before the shooting, a neighbor heard “nonstop” shouting between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. at Pistorius’ upscale home in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria.
However, Botha later said under cross examination that the witness was in a house 600 yards (meters) away, possibly out of earshot. He cut that estimate in half when questioned again by the prosecutor, as confusion reigned for much of his testimony.
At one point, Botha told the court that police found syringes and two boxes of testosterone in Pistorius’ bedroom <0x2014> testimony the prosecution later withdrew, saying it was too early to identify the substance, which was still being tested.
“It is not certain (what it is) until the forensics” are completed, Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for South Africa’s National Prosecution Agency, told The Associated Press. It’s not clear if it was “a legal or an illegal medication for now.”
The defense also disputed the claim. “It is an herbal remedy,” Roux said. “It is not ... a banned substance.”