Oscar Pistorius trial: Key questions athlete may face as defence prepares to launch case

The athlete may take the stand to explain inconsistencies in his account of his girlfriend's death

Pretoria

Gerrie Nel, the state prosecutor, stunned the court at Oscar Pistorius's murder trial last week, asking for an adjournment until tomorrow and indicating that he would be concluding his case "early next week". This means that the Paralympian athlete could be on the stand by Tuesday or Wednesday, a month earlier than many had predicted.

There may yet be complications, but South African law states that, while the accused does not have to testify, if he is to do so he must appear first – before the defence calls any witnesses. After three weeks of often enthralling and regularly damning testimony against him, what are the questions that the world's first double amputee Olympic sprinter must now answer?

Does he scream like a woman?

Several of the athlete's neighbours have claimed to have heard "blood-curdling screams" or "woman's screams" or a "woman's screams mixed with a man's". Pistorius's defence counsel claims that, when fearing for his life, the athlete's voice "pitches up" and that "he sounds like a woman". They have even suggested that they have an expert witness who will testify to that end. His ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, does not agree. "I have heard him scream a few times," she has told the court. "It's not true [that he sounds like a woman]. He sounds like a man." So, in order to answer the question of whether he screams like a woman or man, Pistorius may even be made to demonstrate.

How could he not have heard Reeva screaming?

Police ballistics expert Captain Christian Mangena has insisted that the first bullet Pistorius fired struck Ms Steenkamp in the hip, causing her to fall. The shot that killed her was fired at a similar height – around three feet off the floor – and struck her in the head, and that there must have been a discernible time gap between these shots, during which if Pistorius is to be believed, she remained silent. The pathologist who performed Ms Steenkamp's post-mortem examination said it was "highly likely" that the first wound would have caused her to scream in pain, and yet Pistorius says he carried on shooting, still in the belief that she was an intruder.

What damaged the bedroom door?

Crime-scene photographs show significant damage to the bottom of Pistorius's bedroom door, and possibly even a bullet hole. He will have to explain how the damage occurred, and perhaps answer the charge that it is evidence of an argument at the house that night – as witnesses have claimed.

Why was there blood in the bedroom?

Another photograph shows blood spatters above Pistorius's bed. He is not supposed to have returned to the bedroom after discovering Reeva's slumped body in the bathroom and carrying it downstairs. It could be what has been described as an "arterial spatter" – a spot of blood projected some distance, under some pressure. But, as with many elements in this case, it may not be.

How important is the gun holster found on Ms Steenkamp's side of the bed?

Photographs of Pistorius's bedroom showed an empty gun holster on the left hand side of the bed where the athlete claims he imagined Ms Steenkamp was still sleeping when he gathered his gun.

The late night meal?

Pistorius claims he and Reeva were in bed by 10pm. But the post-mortem examination found "vegetable material" in her stomach that suggested she had eaten within two hours of her death, which occurred shortly after 3am. However, it is not an exact science. It is entirely possible that she ate much earlier, but it would make her, in the pathologist's view, a "scientific outlier".

How could he have been wearing his prosthetic legs?

Pistorius says he attached his prosthetic legs before striking through the locked toilet door with a cricket bat. But the police forensics analyst, Lt Col Johannes Vermuelen, has concluded that the marks made by the cricket bat on the door are at a height and in a position that indicate Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

What about his mobile phone?

The state is expected to call four or five more witnesses before concluding its case. But, as things stand, they have still been unable to extract data from Pistorius's phone, which they had hoped might prove the couple had been arguing. The password provided to the prosecution is said not to have worked. Why is that?

Everything's fine?

Pieter Baba, a security guard at the athlete's Silver Woods Estate, says he called Pistorius after receiving calls about the sound of gunshots and screaming. He claims Pistorius told him "everything's fine" but that he could "hear him crying". The defence counsel maintains that Pistorius in fact said everything was "OK" and that he had himself already called security by this point. But everything was quite patently not fine. Why would he claim that?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee