Under cross-examination Wednesday, investigating Officer Hilton Botha was forced to admit that Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’s version of the early morning shooting last Thursday that left his girlfriend dead fitted the crime scene.
“It sounds consistent,” Botha said.
The Australian reports that the lead police investigator was forced to admit multiple police errors in the murder case against Pistorius when his lawyers poked holes in the prosecution’s case against him, challenging flawed police work, and undermining earlier explosive claims that witnesses heard arguing, a woman screaming and gunfire at Pistorius’s Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day.
It was the hope of Pestorius’s lawyers to boost the athlete’s chance of being released on bail.
Pistorius, 26, insists he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in a horrible accident and not intentionally, as the prosecution aims to prove.
Defense lawyer Barry Roux went on to cast doubt on key witnesses at the bail hearing. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said a woman who lives in the same highly secured complex as Pistsorius “heard talking that sounded like non-stop fighting from two to three in the morning,” hours before Steenkamp was killed.
Another witness reported hearing gunshots, screams, then more shots police said.
“We have the statement of a person who said after he heard gunshots, he went to his balcony and saw the light was on. Then he heard a female screaming two, three times, then more gunshots,” Botha said.
But Roux disputed these accounts as police said one witness was at least 300 metres (436 yards, or about a quarter-mile) from the house and the other had misheard the number of gunshots fired.
Botha was also forced to admit police had missed a bullet that hit the toilet basin in their investigation. The defense’s forensic team discovered the bullet four days later. Botha also conceded he did not wear protective clothing when Pistorius’s forensic team visited the home, which may have contaminated the scene.
Late Wednesday, prosecutors backtracked on the claim that a police search of Pistorius’s home found testosterone and needles in a dresser in his bedroom.
“We can’t tell what it is,” said national prosecuting authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku. “We can’t confirm or deny it until we get the forensic report.”
"The Pistorius family finds the contradictions in Botha's testimony extremely concerning," they said in a statement, adding that they were "satisfied" with the bail hearing.
Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics in London last year, says he shot Steenkamp by mistake through a locked bathroom door, believing she was a burglar. She was shot three times through the bathroom door early Feb. 14 with wounds to her head, elbow and hip.
“I had no intention to kill my girlfriend,” he said in an affidavit read to the court on the first day of his bail hearing on Monday.
Police revealed that Pistorius had previously been arrested at his Pretoria home for assault. He was not charged. In 2009, Pistorius admitted to a newspaper that he slept with a pistol, machine gun, cricket bat and baseball bat for fear of burglars.
Magistrate Desmond Nair said earlier he could not rule out there was some planning involved in the killing, which may be considered a premeditated murder, setting a high bar for bail.
The bail hearing was adjourned until Thursday when both sides are expected to summarize their arguments.
Pistorius was forced to cancel races in Australia, Brazil, Britain and the US between March and May. Two of his American sponsors, Nike and sunglasses maker Oakley, announced they were dropping Pistorius from their advertising campaigns, which have earned him millions of dollars in endorsements. French cosmetics firm Clarins said on Wednesday it was suspending a fragrance advertising campaign featuring Pistorius.