Tomorrow Oscar Pistorius will go on trial in South Africa accused of murdering his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, with the case likely to hinge on forensic evidence. Ballistic experts have already been quoted in the press explaining how every shot fired will have left a trail. First will be the angle the gun was fired at, which will give an indication how the firearm was held. The angle would be different if fired from lower as if the athlete was on his stumps, like he said he was.
It is also possible to work out how far away the weapon was when it was used and the grouping of the shots will also vary depending on the skill and the speed at which the shots were fired. The athlete’s fate lies in what a single judge believes after all the arguments, as South Africa has no jury system.
Pistorius has insisted since Steenkamp’s death that the couple were in love and had spent a quiet night in. The state has witnesses who claim they heard screaming before shots were fired. In his affidavit, the Paralympian said he went to retrieve a fan from the balcony. It was pitch dark in the bedroom after he closed the sliding doors and the curtains. Pistorius said he heard a noise in the bathroom but was too scared to turn on a light. Thinking it was a burglar and terrified, he went to get his 9mm pistol hidden under the bed. At this point, Pistorius said he believed Steenkamp was still in the bed, but the prosecution will ask how he could walk past the bed without knowing it was empty.
He says he then walked down the corridor to the connecting bathroom. Once there, he said he saw the bathroom window was open and there was a noise coming from the separate toilet. Pistorius fired four shots at the toilet door. According to leaked documents, the state said security guards at the Pistorius residential complex telephoned him after shots were fired to ask if everything was in order. The guards said Pistorius indicated everything was fine. Since that day, forensic evidence has been evaluated and when Pistorius goes on trial tomorrow, a lot will hinge on it.
That evidence is almost certainly going to be contested by the Pistorius side, who said the famous Paralympian was, and is, distraught about what happened and was enamored with his new love, believing she was “the one.” Specialists from both sides will try to glean everything they can from the site of the actual shooting. Every drop of blood can show just what happened – if Steenkamp was standing, sitting or moving. The spread of blood, the amount and the pattern can all combine to give a picture of events. Science and forensics will help build a picture and it will be up to the judge to weigh it all and decide if the death of Steenkamp was a tragic accident or murder. It is inevitable that forensic evidence will play a vital role in the Oscar Pistorius trial and it has been argued that the verdict will hinge on it.
By Robert Shepherd