PRETORIA, South Africa – The pistol, cocked and ready to fire, lay on a mat on the bloodied bathroom floor in the home of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, just where he left it after shooting his girlfriend to death, according to police.
In an eerie virtual tour of the Pistorius house Thursday, seen via crime scene photos taken just after her body was removed, Pretoria’s high court followed the trail of blood leading up the marble staircase and inexorably into the bathroom where Reeva Steenkamp was killed.
There at the bottom of the stairs was the blood-smeared area where Pistorius laid Steenkamp, after carrying her down from the bathroom, and where a neighbor saw him desperately try to revive her, bargaining with God for her survival. And there on the floor, like scattered red petals, were drops of blood.
There were drops on the walls too, and on the steel railings.
Police followed the trail of blood upstairs to the shooting scene the night of the killing, and the court took the same path, as dozens of photographs of the house were shown.
No one contests that Pistorius shot his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year. The prosecution contends he did so intentionally; he claims he mistook her for a burglar. He has pleaded not guilty to murder.
By the time former police Col. Schoombie Van Rensburg arrived just before 4 a.m. that morning, Pistorius, still crying, was in the kitchen. When the policeman asked him what happened, he was too upset to answer, Van Rensburg told the court.
When the policeman arrived, Steenkamp’s body was lying at the bottom of the stairs, later removed and placed in an ambulance.
In the bathroom upstairs lay a bloodied towel on the floor, two cellphones, splinters of wood from the broken toilet door, a Lazer cricket bat that the athlete used to break through wooden panels of the door, and smears of blood on the wall tiles. In the enclosed toilet cubicle where Steenkamp was shot, a dark pool of blood lay on the floor. Several spent bullet cartridges were visible in the bathroom and hall outside the door.
Steenkamp’s red vanity bag stood on the edge of the bath. In the main bedroom her black gym bag was on an armchair and her slippers were on the floor. A gun magazine with expanding or hollow-nosed bullets – which pathologist Gert Saayman has testified are designed to cause maximum tissue damage – was found by police in the bedside drawer.
It looked like the typical wealthy young bachelor’s pad, devoid of many personal touches, with seeming acres of shiny marble floor tiles, bland decor, modern cream leather couches and nondescript wall art. A glass cabinet full of trophies could be seen downstairs.
In the main bedroom upstairs, a glass cabinet full of sunglasses, rather like something that would be found in a store, was installed like a décor item. Next to it were propped an air gun and a steel baseball bat. A television was bolted to a wall.
One photograph homed in on several chips in the bedroom door frame.
There were two fans in the bedroom, floor-to-ceiling beige curtains, beige carpet. The duvet lay cast on the floor along with a pair of jeans. There was music system and a box of watches on a loudspeaker.
Pistorius’ story is that he fetched two fans from the balcony, heard the bathroom window open, thought it was a burglar, went to the bathroom in the dark and fired four shots through the toilet door. The defense case is that he screamed hysterically afterward when he realized his mistake and that neighbors who thought they heard a woman’s screams actually heard Pistorius'.
He says the couple had a quiet night and were in bed by 10 p.m. One neighbor has testified she heard a woman’s voice, seemingly involved in an argument, going on and on in the early hours of the morning. Others testified they heard a woman scream, then gunshots.
Steenkamp’s friend and “second mother,” Desi Myers, with whom she lived in Johannesburg, was in court Thursday and looked down for much of the time the photographs were shown. Pistorius, wearing glasses, took notes and showed no emotion.
Earlier in the day, photographs of Steenkamp’s body and head flashed very briefly onto the screens in the courtroom as an official searched for the right photograph. There were audible gasps throughout the room.
Soon after that incident another photograph revealing blood on the toilet floor upset the athlete. He hunched forward, retching and vomiting, as he had done during Monday’s autopsy evidence, clearly extremely distressed.