Oscar Pistorius 'knew rules' about gun use

LIVE: Coverage of murder trial of Oscar Pistorius. May include graphic evidence

The Oscar Pistorius trial has heard from a firearm specialist who testified the athlete had good knowledge of the rules on gun use and dealing with intruders.

Mr Pistorius said one could discharge a firearm if one feared for one's life.

Mr Pistorius denies murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, saying he mistook her for an intruder.

The prosecution says he intentionally shot Ms Steenkamp after an argument at his house on Valentine's Day 2013.

60 second round-up of the evidence presented on day 11 of the trial

Sean Patrick Rens is involved in firearms assessment for licences and met Mr Pistorius in 2012 through a mutual friend.

Analysis

In court cases, it is often in the detail that credibility is built or lost. A slow day compared to what we have seen since the trial started, but an important win for the South African Police Service (SAPS) and by extension the state.

Last week the defence accused the police of "tampering" with the crime scene after a number of items seemed to have been moved from their original position.

Moving objects is part of procedure when analysing a crime scene, veteran police photographer Bennie Van Staden told the court but defence lawyer Barry Roux seemed unconvinced.

Mr Van Staden gave a minute-by-minute account of the hundreds of images he took at the Pistorius house, using meta-data stored on his camera's memory card.

He explained that during his investigation he took one set of images of the scene as the police found it and a series of others after moving some items for "visibility". The witness, who spoke in Afrikaans, seemed confident as he defended his work.

Mr Pistorius had bought a gun from Mr Rens, a Smith and Wesson 500, day 11 of the trial heard. He then ordered six more guns from him.

The order was cancelled a month after Ms Steenkamp was killed.

Mr Rens read out a competency questionnaire and examination that Mr Pistorius, a South African Paralympic athlete, had completed before he could be issued with a firearm.

He scored top marks in these tests, which included questions about the rules on when you are legally allowed to shoot intruders.

One question was: "There is no security gate between you and the burglars. They are armed and they advance towards you. Can you discharge your firearm because you fear for your life?"

Mr Pistorius replied "Yes".

The next question was: "Explain the legal requirements when using a firearm for private use", to which Mr Pistorius answered: "Attack must be against you, it must be unlawful, it must be against persons."

The final question on the importance of target identification elicited this answer from Mr Pistorius: "Always know your target and what lies behind."

'Combat mode'

Mr Rens also relates an incident when Mr Pistorius told him about going into "code red", or "combat mode", after hearing a noise in the house and thinking there was an intruder.

Mr Pistorius got his gun and cleared the house by drawing his gun and checking rooms, Mr Rens said, and when he got to the source, he found it was a tumble drier.

Mr Pistorius had tweeted about the incident in November 2012: "Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!"

INTERACTIVE
  • ×

  • 1. Balcony

    × Balcony

    Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

    He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

  • 2. Bathroom window

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

    "Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

    Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

  • 3. Shooting

    ×

    Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

    Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

    He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

    Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.

    A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

  • 4. Bedroom

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.

    Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.

  • 5. Toilet door

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

    Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

  • 6. Emergency calls

    ×

    Mr Pistorius's defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

    A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.

    A minute later he received an incoming call - estate security calling him back.

    According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.

The questioning of Mr Rens at the end of his testimony was the briefest cross-examination of the trial by Mr Roux so far, says the BBC's Andrew Harding, who is in court.

The next witness was police crime scene photographer Bennie Van Staden, whom Mr Roux accuses of failing to label his pictures correctly.

He was called to the scene at around 04:50 and took pictures of the accused and the deceased, as well as pictures in the different rooms of the house.

His photographs show the bloodied bat Mr Pistorius used to smash open the bathroom door, the damaged door itself, blood-soaked towels, two mobile phones, blood puddles on the bathroom tiles, as well as the toilet bowl covered in blood, with streaks on the inside.

He says that you can see the date and time of the photo in his pictures, rejecting defence claims that his picture timeline was jumbled or unclear.

Reeva Steenkamp - 7 February 2013 Reeva Steenkamp was a model, reality TV star and law graduate

Mr Van Staden explained how he set out cones to highlight certain objects in the bathroom, eg cartridge cases, and moved some objects for visibility.

The witness quietly undid some of the defence's claims about contamination of the scene, our correspondent says.

The trial has now been adjourned until Tuesday.

The trial is expected to call on more than 100 witnesses. It had been set to last for three weeks, but looks likely to be extended.

The state is seeking to convince the court that Mr Pistorius deliberately shot Ms Steenkamp - a 29-year-old model, reality TV star and law graduate - following an argument.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

If found guilty, the 27-year-old - a national sporting hero and double amputee dubbed the "blade runner" because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race - could face life imprisonment.

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