British TV doco challenges evidence in Pistorius trial

By Paul Cahalan

Oscar Pistorius. Photo / AP
Oscar Pistorius. Photo / AP

Evidence that neighbours of Oscar Pistorius heard him arguing with his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, just hours before he shot and killed her is undermined in a documentary to be broadcast in Britain.

In the second of two Channel 5 documentaries to be aired before Pistorius appears in the dock for a pre-trial hearing tomorrow, two of South Africa's top barristers use experts and a full-size reconstruction of Pistorius's bathroom and bedroom to dissect the evidence on which his fate hangs, dismissing claims that neighbours heard the couple rowing.

Immediately before that, in Why Did Oscar Pistorius Kill Our Daughter?, Steenkamp's parents say their daughter told them the couple were arguing, and explain why they feared for her safety. For the first time they will also show her painting of a gunman, an angel and a stairway to heaven - images that they claim were a premonition.

Pistorius, who is on 1m rand bail ($125,000), became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics when he raced in London last year.

He killed Steenkamp, a model, in the early hours of Valentine's Day at his Pretoria home.

He says he mistook her for an intruder and shot her four times, hitting her in the head and arm, while she was in the bathroom. Prosecutors say the killing was premeditated.

The prosecution must provide a motive to have him convicted of premeditated murder, and part of that case relies on two witness statements saying the couple were arguing. But, in Pistorius Trial: The Key Questions, those statements from neighbours living 300m from the athlete's home are called into question. Technology used to measure the noise impact of new train lines suggests that voices arguing could not be heard from 300m away, only from a distance of about 50m.

It has been alleged that Pistorius sent texts to another woman of a "flirtatious nature" after he had begun his four-month relationship with Steenkamp, which might provide a motive, while Steenkamp, 29, is said to have been trading messages with a previous boyfriend. Why she took her mobile phone to the bathroom in the middle of the night is also under scrutiny.

Laurie Peters, a criminologist, says the fact that he didn't check whether Reeva was in bed or not was illuminating. She says: "He didn't even bother to find out where Reeva was before he fired blindly into the dark.

"That would be a red flag to me because psychologically the first thing you would do is find the people you want to protect."

- Independent

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