Pistorius trial: Forensic inconsistencies tackled

A police forensics expert is facing rigorous questioning by defence advocate Barry Roux.

Murder accused Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock at the High Court in Pretoria on 12 March 2014. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - Defence advocate Barry Roux is cross-examining police forensics expert Colonel Gerhard Vermeulen on day nine of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in the High Court in Pretoria.

The defence advocate is focusing on inconsistencies in the forensic investigative process and how the bathroom door was actually damaged.

Roux launched straight back into an attack on the qualifications and competence of Vermeulen.

Vermeulen testified about the tests he carried out on the actual door from Pistorius's toilet.

His conclusion is that Pistorius was on his stumps when he tried to break down the door in an attempt to get to a dying Reeva Steenkamp.

But Roux argued the athlete was on his prosthetic legs at the time.

He's also questioning how the door was handled and re-assembled and whether police had bungled the forensic investigation.

Roux zoomed in on the missing pieces of the door.

"Common sense would only dictate to me but of course you can assist us. You asked Captain Mangena where are the missing pieces from the door. And he would say to you: 'But colonel, there they are.'"

Vermeulen responded, "That's possible. That's one possibility."

The forensics expert is trying his best to explain the chain of custody.

"As I said I cannot tell you exactly who I spoke to and the words I exactly used. I could have even mentioned it to my colleague in the office that I did not see the missing pieces myself. "

The bathroom door in court. Picture: Pool.

Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through the bathroom door on Valentine's Day last year.

Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: Carte Blanche

While he said it was a case of mistaken identity, the state maintains that he killed her in cold blood.

Roux said there is a mark on the door which the defence team could prove was made by a prosthetic leg.

Roux also scrutinised the preservation of the door and who transferred and where it was kept since the day of the shooting.

Roux has been trying to prove to Vermeulen that Pistorius was on his prosthetic legs when he tried to hit down the bathroom door.

He also pointed out that Vermeulen never allowed for this possibility in his investigation, which was unfair to the accused.

But Vermeulen said his job was only to study the actual cricket bat and its correlation to marks on the door.

Colonel Gerhard Vermeulen with the cricket bat. Picture: Pool.

Roux then reminded Vermeulen that he was also given brief access to the prosthetic legs and had an opportunity to look into more possibilities of how the door was damaged.

Earlier, when proceedings began, Roux asked for Vermeulen's telephone records from Thursday.

It seemed as if Roux suggested that Vermeulen consulted with certain people overnight ahead of his testimony today.

It appears Roux is trying to show that Vermeulen isn't particularly proficient and didn't fully conduct his own investigation.


Yesterday, Roux asked how Vermeulen overlooked fibres from Pistorius's prosthetic leg sock which had become embedded in splinters of the wooden toilet door.

Vermeulen said he didn't know and also couldn't explain how the door varnish on the prosthesis was not analysed.

Roux said the wood, fabric and prosthetic limb all matched.

Vermeulen shows how the door could have been hit with a cricket bat.

He said this proved his client first attempted to kick down the door to rescue Steenkamp, before fetching his cricket bat to break it down.

Vermeulen testified that his study of the evidence showed that the athlete was on his stumps.

EWN video: Bathroom door takes centre stage.

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