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Pistorius trial: Blood spatter expert has his say

Colonel Ian van der Nest's testimony tied up with Capt Chris Mangena's testimony.

Colonel Michael Sales

PRETORIA – After significant testimony by ballistics expert Captain Chris Mangena in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial this morning, blood spatter expert Colonel Ian van der Nest briefly took the stand.

Oscar Pistorius with his lawyer Barry Roux during his murder trial at the High Court in Pretoria on 17 March 2014. Picture: Pool. 

Picture: Pool.

Mangena this morning revealed that Reeva Steenkamp was in a defensive position when she was shot by Pistorius on Valentine’s Day last year.

Mangena explained each shot and described how they hit Steenkamp.

Ballistics expert Captain Chris Mangena gives testimony in court during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on 19 March 2014.
Captain Chris Mangena.

Regarding the final shot, Mangena said, “She was in a defensive position.”

BLOOD SPATTER PATTERNS

Van der Nest testified that he became involved in the case when he was called to attend Steenkamp’s post-mortem.

“I attended the crime scene the same day as the post-mortem, 15 February.”

He said he was called to answer questions by investigators about blunt force trauma on Steenkamp’s body.

“Spatter found in the downstairs lounge was caused by an arterial spurt. The stairs are above the lounge.”

He said there was a distinctive pattern in the shape of the letter ‘S’ which indicated an arterial spurt.

“The blood-soaked shorts and hair of the deceased contributed to the dripping pattern.”

He added that blood smudges on the staircase handrail were probably caused by blood-soaked hair.


Blood smudges on the staircase handrail.

Van der Nest also said the blood on the toilet was consistent with the head wound.

This indicated that “the deceased sustained a wound to her head in the vicinity of the toilet as there was nothing else in the area which was consistent with the head wound”.

Van der Nest’s evidence tied up with ballistics findings from Mangena.

Like Mangena, van der Nest said Steenkamp’s arm was raised when she was shot.

Mangena had said this showed that she was trying to defend her head.

After a very brief cross-examination van der Nest was excused.

Van der Nest is stationed at the Victim Identification Centre. Previously, he was in the forensic science department, working as a blood spatter analyst.

He has 20 years of experience and a Bachelor of Science Degree, with Honours in Biochemistry from Rhodes University.

MANGENA STICKS TO HIS GUNS

Earlier, during his cross-examination by defence advocate Barry Roux, a highly experienced Mangena was not deterred by Roux’s questions and firmly stuck to his guns.

Various images of the crime scene objects are being shown in the High Court in Pretoria during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on 18 March 2014.

Roux said his experts would show that Steenkamp was not standing exactly where Mangena said she was.

Mangena strongly disagreed with ‘alternative suggestions’ proposed by Roux and even said, "My tests are correct."

At one point Roux asked, “Have you conducted tests to determine the difference between the sound of a cricket bat hitting a door and actual gunshots?”

A police forensics expert staged a re-enactment at the High Court in Pretoria on 12 March 2014 of how Oscar Pistorius broke down the door of the toilet where he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: Pool.

Picture: Pool.

To which Mangena responded, “No. I don’t specialise in sounds, I couldn’t have differentiated.“

Mangena got quite annoyed with Roux and disproved the majority of his alternative suggestions.

Towards the end of his cross-examination, Roux questioned Mangena on the order of the shots.

Mangena told Roux, “I am sticking to my theory and I won’t change it.”

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