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Pistorius shot girlfriend in hip before headPublish Date: Mar 20, 2014
Pistorius shot girlfriend in hip before head
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Oscar Pistorius speaks with his lawyer Barry Roux on the thirteenth day of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. AFP Photo
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OSCAR Pistorius shot his girlfriend first in the hip before hitting her fatally in the head through a locked toilet door, a police ballistics expert testified Wednesday at the Paralympian's murder trial in South Africa.

The ballistics report appears to support earlier testimony that Reeva Steenkamp had time to cry for help before she died and contradicts the defence team's version that she could not have screamed.

The South African Paralympian sprinter says Steenkamp's death was a terrible accident, and that he shot her through the locked door after he mistook her for an intruder when she went to the toilet.

The ballistics report will be key in the South African state's case of premeditated murder against Pistorius.

"The best probable explanation is the deceased was initially upright behind the closed door, she sustained a penetrating wound in the right side of the hip," the ballistics expert, Captain Chris Mangena, told the court.

The 29-year-old model and law graduate then fell onto a magazine rack where bullets hit her elbow, hand and head in uncertain order.

A bullet clipped her raised left hand before entering her brain, Mangena said.

"The deceased was seated in a defensive position," he said. "The arm was lifted up, and was in front of her chest."

"You've both hands forward, with the left and right hand crossing the head?" asked prosecutor Gerrie Nel, mimicking the position with his own arms.

"That is correct," his witness answered.

Pistorius, 27, sat with his head in his hands, while Steenkamp's mother and relatives in the public gallery lowered their heads when graphic images of the blood-splattered bathroom were shown.

Court adjourned until Monday 

The court adjourned until Monday, after prosecutor Nel asked for time to re-examine his final "four or five" witnesses before closing his case early next week.

The sequence of shots speaks to whether Steenkamp could have shouted during the shooting. Witnesses have testified to a woman's terrified shrieks, but the defence say she was hit first in the head and therefore could not have made a sound.

Earlier, Mangena said the Paralympic gold medallist could have been as close as 60 centimetres (24 inches) to the toilet door, or as far away as 3 metres, when he fired, though he said 220 centimetres was the most likely position.

The distance from the door could shed light on whether Pistorius fired on the cubicle in a panic or approached it in a calculated plan to hit his target.

The ballistics report also confirmed a pause between the shot in the hip and the next three shots that Pistorius fired that night, confirming earlier witness testimony on what they heard.

"I cannot determine how long is the break, but there is definitely a break, between the first shot and the second shot," he said.

"How do I determine the break is by looking at the wounds sustained by the deceased."

State witness Michelle Burger testified she had heard a break between the first and second shots as well.

Police blood spatter expert Ian van der Nest said broken hair, bone fragments and blood fragments confirmed Steenkamp was shot close to the toilet seat and that her arm was raised when the headshot was fired.

The court also saw Pistorius visited pornography sites the evening before he shot Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Nel explained how the browsing history worked using as example a search for luxury car Morgan Aeromax. The list clearly showed visits to pornography sites, though the prosecution discreetly avoided reading this out in court.

Set down for three weeks, the trial will already run over schedule by Monday. It will run for two more weeks, possibly longer if needed.

Once the state has wrapped up its case, the Paralympian's expensive defense team is expected to call their own experts, including crime scene recreators from the United States, to prove his innocence.

AFP

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