Oscar: State confident despite FBI delay

Oscar Pistorius enters the Pretoria Magistrates Court on 4 June 2012. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – With just three weeks to go until the start of Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial, Eyewitness News has learned that the state will go ahead without evidence obtained from one of the athlete’s cellphones. 

Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year at his Pretoria home.

While he says it was a case of mistaken identity, believing Steenkamp was an intruder, the state will argue it was murder when the trial starts on 3 March.

Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the Feather Awards, held on 4 November 2012. Picture: AFP
Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius at the Feather Awards on 4 November 2012. Picture: AFP.

The police need California-based Apple to analyse encrypted data on the phone, as Pistorius claims he can’t remember his Apple ID. 

Investigators recovered three phones from the bathroom where Steenkamp was shot, two iPhone 4s and an iPhone 5. 

It’s understood that it is the iPhone 5 which investigators are struggling to analyse. 

An official close to the investigation says red tape imposed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has slowed their process since they submitted a formal request for mutual assistance last year. 

An investigator involved in the case told Eyewitness News they would like to recover message histories as well as data from messaging applications. 

The officer says they’ve already booked their tickets and accommodation to the US but are just waiting for the green light from the FBI. 

He says the police submitted supporting documentation from chief magistrate Desmond Nair and Director of Public Prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi to the FBI just three weeks ago.

But he adds they have requested the original documents before they’re willing to further process the request for mutual assistance and make contact with Apple. 

The officer did, however, say that the FBI obtained a preservation order on the data when they started the application last year. 

Despite possibly not having all the evidence by the time the trial starts, the state remains confident of its case. 

An official in the National Prosecuting Authority, who spoke to Eyewitness News on condition of anonymity, says prosecutors would not have served their indictment and set a trial date if they were not satisfied with the case they had in hand at the time. 

He says it would be foolish for prosecutors to bank on the evidence, which may or may not be retrieved from the phone.