Oscar Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead through a locked toilet door, it has been alleged as a court hearing was held laying the ground for the paralympian's trial for her murder.
The latest claim in the sensational case is reportedly made in a leaked ballistics report that is said to form part of the police investigations dossier handed to Pistorius' defence team last week.
It comes as Pistorius, 26, faced the glare of the world's media once more as he appeared in court in Pretoria last night for a preliminary hearing in his trial for the murder of Steenkamp, a law graduate and FHM model, who would have celebrated her 30th birthday today.
Looking subdued, he prayed with his sister Aimee and brother Carl, holding hands with them and crying. The hearing was short. "Mr Pistorius, the matter is then transferred to the High Court and is scheduled to start on the 3rd of March 2014 and will run until the 20th of March 2014," magistrate Desmond Nair said.
Pistorius was handed a copy of the indictment and the court adjourned.
The double amputee shot Steenkamp dead at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of St Valentine's Day this year. He claimed he thought she was a burglar. The state claims that he shot her deliberately after a blazing row.
In an earlier court hearing, Pistorius said that he had woken in the middle of the night, heard a noise in the bathroom and immediately grabbed his gun to protect himself and his girlfriend, who was staying the night. "I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable," he said in an affidavit. "I believed that when the intruder or intruders came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger."
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel contended that Pistorius took the time to strap on his prostheses, indicating the shooting had been a "clear case of premeditated murder".
According to a report in the Sunday Times, ballistics evidence now backs up Pistorius' claim that he was on his stumps.
The paper quoted "a person with inside knowledge of the case" against Pistorius as saying: "The defence will try to show that his actions were reasonable for a person with a disability." Another report, in the City Press newspaper, claims Steenkamp's post-mortem examination report, also in the police dossier, reveals she was crouching behind the bathroom door when she was shot in the head, hip and arm. The paper cites Hilton Botha, the former lead police investigator in the case, as saying that detectives believed forensic examination would back up their theory that Steenkamp was hiding in the bathroom rather than using the toilet.
The Sunday Times reports the state will seek to portray Pistorius as a "trigger-happy, aggressive" personality who was "prone to violent outbursts". Claims last week that it would seek to add two charges of recklessly discharging a gun in a public place - once by accident in a Johannesburg restaurant and once in a friend's car - have been played down by the defence team who have suggested they will object to any such move. There were no new charges on the indictment.
In Port Elizabeth, Steenkamp's family gathered to celebrate what would have been her 30th birthday. "We will be doing something casual, baking a cake for her, being together as a family," her uncle Mike said. "We certainly won't be watching the [hearing]. We will be thinking about her."
The Pistorius trial
*Oscar Pistorius' trial will begin at the Pretoria High Court on March 3 and last until March 20.
*Prosecutors last night unveiled a 10-page indictment for premeditated murder.
*Indictment includes an attached witness list of 107 names.
*Among those expected to be called as witnesses for the prosecution are Samantha Taylor, a former girlfriend of Pistorius, and Marc Batchelor, an acquaintance whose legs the athlete is alleged to have threatened to break.
*A single senior judge will hear the case.
- additional reporting AFP