Bullets hit Steenkamp as she cowered in cubicle, court hears

Pistorius pressed his thumbs into his ears during testimony about Reeva Steenkamp's wounds. Picture: Reuters
Pistorius pressed his thumbs into his ears during testimony about Reeva Steenkamp's wounds. Picture: Reuters
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Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend was standing in a toilet cubicle facing the closed door when hit in the right hip by the first of four bullets he fired, a police ballistics expert has told the runner’s murder trial.

Reeva Steenkamp, 29, fell back on to a magazine holder and crossed her arms over her head to protect herself, said Captain Christiaan Mangena. The second bullet missed her and ricocheted off the wall and broke into fragments, bruising her back, he said.

She was then hit in her right arm and in the head by the third and fourth shots fired by Pistorius with his 9mm pistol, he said, before she collapsed with her head on the toilet seat.

Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, is charged with premeditated murder following Ms Steenkamp’s death on 14 February last year and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He says he shot Ms Steenkamp by mistake through a locked bathroom door because he thought she was an intruder.

Pistorius says Ms Steenkamp went to use the toilet during the night without him knowing, but prosecutors accuse him of killing her after a row that caused her to try to hide in the toilet. Neighbours have testified to hearing screams before and during the shots being fired.

Capt Mangena concluded that one of the final two bullets fired by Pistorius went through Ms Steenkamp’s left hand, which she held over her head, then into her skull. He could not specify the order of the last two shots. As Capt Mangena threw his hands up to cover his head to reenact Ms Steenkamp’s cowering position, and described her head wound, Pistorius put his fingers in his ears in an apparent bid to block out the testimony.

June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, was in court and glanced at photos of the bloody scene of her daughter’s shooting.

Capt Mangena said the bullet that struck Ms Steenkamp’s skull broke into two fragments, one of which exited her head and struck the wall behind her. The first shot into the right hip broke her hip bone, he said.

“I’m of the opinion that after this wound was inflicted, my lady, she dropped immediately,” Capt Mangena said, addressing Judge Thokozile Masipa. Ms Steenkamp slumped into a “seated or semi-seated position” on top of the magazine rack in the cubicle, where she was hit another two times, he said.

Pistorius fired from a distance of at least 24in and no further than 10ft away, where there was a wall behind him, Capt Mangena said. He described the impact of the hollow point, dum-dum bullets in Pistorius’ gun,.

“It hits the target, it opens up, it creates six talons, and these talons are sharp,” Capt Mangena said. “It cuts through the organs of a human being.”

The defence said it would challenge the expert’s testimony about the sequence of the shots.

Also yesterday, police officer Ian van der Nest testified many of the bloodstains found in Pistorius’s house were from arterial bleeding, consistent with the gunshot wounds to Ms Steenkamp’s head and arm. Some came from her blood-soaked hair and shorts.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he would wrap up his case early next week after calling four or five more witnesses. The trial was adjourned until Monday.