Pistorius trial: cricket bat, toilet door in court

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Forensic investigator Johannes Vermeulen, with a cricket bat in hand, demonstrates on a mock-up toilet and door details of how the door could have been broken down, during the trial of Oscar Pistorius in court during the second week of his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. At center back is prosecutor Gerrie Nel. (AP Photo/Alexander Joe, Pool)

Forensic investigator Johannes Vermeulen, with a cricket bat in hand, demonstrates on a mock-up toilet and door details of how the door could have been broken down, during the trial of Oscar Pistorius in court during the second week of his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. At center back is prosecutor Gerrie Nel. (AP Photo/Alexander Joe, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock as he listens to cross questioning about the events surrounding the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in court during the second week of his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Wedensday, March 12, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Werner Beukes, Pool)

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asks questions in court about the events surrounding the shooting death of Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in court during the second week of his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Alexander Joe, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius makes notes as he sits in the dock listening to cross questioning about the events surrounding the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in court during the second week of his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Alexander Joe, Pool)

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock as he listens to cross questioning about the events surrounding the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in court during the second week of his trial in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Alexander Joe, Pool)

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Kneeling in court and swinging a cricket bat at Oscar Pistorius’ toilet door, a South African forensic analyst demonstrated Wednesday how the double-amputee athlete may have bashed the door to get to the girlfriend he had just fatally shot.

Col. J.G. Vermeulen said he believed Pistorius was on his stumps when he swung his bat at the brown cubicle door.

The defense, on cross-examination of the policeman, insisted instead that Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic legs when hitting the door in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day last year — and the marks from the bat on the door were lower down because the athlete swung with a bent back.

The intricate argument over whether Pistorius, the first amputee to run at the Olympics and now on trial for murder, was on his prosthetic limbs or not is important because it could match parts of his story that he accidentally shot Reeva Steenkamp. It could also show that he is lying.

The athlete has said he fearfully approached the bathroom on his stumps on Feb. 14 last year and shot Steenkamp by mistake, thinking she was an intruder hiding behind the door. According to his account, he then put on his prostheses and tried to kick down the locked toilet door, and battered it with a cricket bat to get to his girlfriend after realizing what he had done.

Prosecutors maintain he intentionally shot the 29-year-old model and have charged him with murder. He pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, which also include three firearm related counts.

The actual door that Pistorius shot through a year ago was erected in the Pretoria courtroom Wednesday. The bat he used that night was also used in the dramatic demonstrations. And there was even a toilet cubicle behind the door, recreated to the exact specifications of the small area of Pistorius’ bathroom where Steenkamp was fatally shot, Vermeulen said. It included a toilet bowl.

The door also had what appeared to be white tags on it and, lower down and below the handle four bullet holes were clearly visible. Pistorius shot at Steenkamp four times through the door, hitting her in the hip, arm and head. One shot missed, the court has heard.

Vermeulen, who said he has 29 years’ experience as a forensic analyst, said it was his belief that Pistorius was on his stumps — and against what the athlete says — when he hit the door.

“The marks is consistent with him being in a natural position without his prostheses,” Vermeulen said.

The police analyst was repeatedly asked by both the prosecution and defense to demonstrate his assertions by swinging the bat at the door.

“It’s quite low down on the door,” Vermeulen testified about one of the marks he said were made by the bat. He said it was “not the normal position that I would expect from a mark from a cricket bat.”

Defense lawyer Barry Roux countered that Pistorius hit the door with a “bent back” and that the low marks were consistent with such a body position. Roux also made it clear that the prosecution had now retracted initial claims that Pistorius was on his prosthetics when he fired the shots that killed Steenkamp. It is now accepted, Vermeulen said, that he was probably on his stumps.

That mistaken claim by prosecutors in the early part of the investigation was used by them to argue there was premeditation in the killing because they believed the disabled runner planned the killing while putting his prosthetics limbs on.

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