Police competence in question at Pistorius trial

The way police collected evidence has turned into a major point of attack for the defence.

Oscar Pistorius on day 10 of his murder trial at the High Court in Pretoria on 14 March 2014. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - The competence and conduct of crime scene investigators were put in the spotlight on day 10 of the of Oscar Pistorius murder trial.

The Paralympic and Olympic athlete is accused of murdering his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: Carte Blanche.

While Pistorius claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, the state claims it was murder.

The 27-year-old also faces gun-related charges for two separate incidents, one in the Vaal and the other at a crowded Johannesburg north restaurant.

Oscar Pistorius arrives at the High in Pretoria ahead of day 10 of his murder trial on 14 March 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

Pistorius pleaded not guilty to all charges on day one of his trial.

Police have been explaining the evidence gathered in the crucial first few hours after the deadly shooting.

However, what was supposed to be the routine collection of evidence has turned into a major point of attack for the defence.

Pistorius's Advocate Barry Roux on Friday grilled former Boschkop police station commander Schoombie van Rensburg during cross-examination.

Barry Roux at the High Court on 11 March 2014. Picture: Pool.

First, van Rensburg testified about watches being stolen from Pistorius's house and how a ballistics expert handled the athlete's firearm without gloves on.

Colonel Schoombie Van Rensburg testifies at the High Court in Pretoria during the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on 13 March 2014.

Roux then went on to expose crime scene contamination and tampering.

The defence lawyer managed to show the court how some of the pictures taken on the morning of the shooting were of items which had been moved.

A white cellphone van Rensburg said he couldn't find because it was covered by a towel but was clearly visible in scene photographs.

A photograph of Oscar Pistorius is seen on the laptop of a court photographer during the athlete's murder trial in the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Pool

Another picture showed van Rensburg fiddling with wires on the bedroom floor, which was poorly lit.

Roux said this indicates that the curtains had been drawn, unlike in previous photographs showing them open.

EWN video: Schoombie van Rensburg testifies.

CONFLICTING STATEMENTS

Earlier on Friday, van Rensburg said he was the first police officer, along with Hilton Botha, to go upstairs to Pistorius's bedroom and bathroom.

Former investigating officer Hilton Botha. Picture: EWN.

The advocate said these officers mentioned particular details, such as seeing the Taurus firearm and four bullet casings.

Van Rensburg said their statements must be based on hearsay.

He told the court he is convinced that he and Botha were the first to follow the trail of blood upstairs.

Roux also referred to photographs from outside the athlete's upmarket house, which van Rensburg said was sealed off.

An overhead view of Silver Woods Estate in Pretoria. Picture: Carte Blanche.

A photo showing a set of keys in a door lock with several remote controls attached was shown to the court, indicating that access wasn't controlled.

Van Rensburg said they went through the bedroom, past the bed and out the sliding door onto the balcony, and confirmed they were acutely aware they could not touch anything.

Roux then pointed out glaring differences between statements given to police by Botha and van Rensburg.

In Botha's statement read out in court by Roux, he claims to have been inside the bathroom before van Rensburg.

Roux also pointed out differences about where Pistorius was when they arrived.

Van Rensburg suggested Botha may have written his statement based on hearsay.

Roux also questioned the former station commander about his ability to make accurate observations.

The former commander revealed Botha, who is accused of contaminating the scene by not wearing foot covers, was left alone in the bathroom for some time while he inspected the 'Blade Runner's' bedroom.

Roux alleged there was a strategy by the state to avoid putting Botha on the stand.

Botha was sacked from the case after Eyewitness News last year revealed he faced seven charges of attempted murder.

Get all the latest developments on the EWN Oscar Pistorius portal.

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