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Pistorius On Stumps When Shots Were Fired

Pistorius On Stumps When Shots Were Fired

Ballistics expert's testimony supports athlete's claim that he was on his stumps when he mistakenly shot Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius was standing on his stumps nearly three metres from a locked toilet door when he opened fire and killed his girlfriend, testimony from a ballistics expert indicated on Tuesday.

South African police captain Chris Mangena said he placed a tripod 220cm from the door while trying to reconstruct the incident, then shone a laser to establish the trajectory of the four bullets fired by the Paralympian.

Mangena added that Pistorius's arm length with hand in a grip position, as if holding a gun, measures 66cm, implying that he was standing a total of 286cm from the door when he pulled the trigger.

The double amputee sprinter is on trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, at his home in Pretoria on Valentine's day last year. He insists that he mistook her for a burglar.

Mangena, a ballistics expert with two decades' experience, told the high court on Tuesday that he used Pistorius's account of that night as a benchmark for reconstructing the scene.

"When I looked at the version of the accused, he stated that when he fired the shots he was not wearing the prostheses, so he was on his stumps," Mangena said.

"In this incident, for me to reconstruct the crime scene, I had to get the height of the accused so that I can determine whether he was wearing the prostheses or not wearing the prostheses."

The captain therefore requested that Pistorius's measurements be taken at a company called Ergonomics Technologies, north of Johannesburg. This determined that his height while wearing the prosthetic limbs is 1.84 metres, compared with 1.55 metres on his stumps. His height-to-shoulder level is 1.56 metres with the prostheses and 1.23 metres without. His height to elbow level is 1.26 metres with the prostheses and 0.96 metres without.

Mangena, who was present when the measurements were done, said the prostheses that Pistorius was wearing on the day of the shooting were 62cm.

Last year prosecutors alleged that Pistorius was wearing his prostheses when he fired through the door, claiming that the time he took to put them on was evidence of premeditated murder. In his statement, Pistorius claimed he was in a panic and ran to the bathroom on his stumps. The prosecution has since accepted this version.

Mangema testified that, of the four bullets fired, one had missed Steenkamp and ricocheted off a wall before hitting another wall in the cubicle. The other three hit her.

He said he received Pistorius's damaged toilet door on 7 March last year and tested for gunshot residue to determine the distance from which the shots had been fired. Bullet hole A was at a 93.5cm height from the bathroom floor, B was 104.3cm, C was 99.4cm and D was 97.3cm, he testified.

Mangena said he used steel rods and lasers to work out the angle of the bullets.

The captain matched his findings with photos from Steenkamp's postmortem.

His description of her wounds upset Steenkamp's mother, June, prompting a member of the African National Congress women's league to put a consoling arm around her. Pistorius, 27, sitting in the dock and impassive for most of the day, bowed his head and wept softly.

The trial continues.

-culled from Guardian UK

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