Oscar Pistorius trial: The evidence for and against

We will very soon find out which side of this chasmic divide Judge Thokozile Masipa has found the most persuasive when she announces her verdict

Tom Peck
Thursday 11 September 2014 13:53 BST

Oscar Pistorius insists he has always told the whole truth about what happened in his house on Valentine’s day last year, when he shot and killed his girlfriend through a locked toilet door.

The state has always insisted his version of events is a complete fabrication that cannot possibly be true.

We will very soon find out which side of this chasmic divide Judge Thokozile Masipa has found the most persuasive, when she announces her verdict tomorrow.

The state admits that its case rests entirely on circumstantial evidence, and it is important to remember that in such circumstances, it is required to prove that their version of events - that the athlete shot and killed his girlfriend on purpose, as they argued through the locked toilet door - is the only version of events that can possibly be true.

However implausible parts of Pistorius’s story may seem to be, this is very difficult task indeed.

Here are the essential inconsistencies she will have had to evaluate before reaching her verdict.

Pistorius says: Reeva cooked chicken strips and a vegetable stir-fry, and they ate at 7pm
The prosecution says: Vegetable matter found in Reeva’s stomach very strongly indicates she ate within two hours of death. And she is unlikely to have gone downstairs and eaten in the middle of the night, as it would have required unlocking the bedroom door, and deactivating the downstairs alarm.

When did the pair go to bed?

Pistorius says: The pair went to bed at between 9 and 10pm.
The prosecution says: The contents of Reeva's stomach suggest she ate around 1am, which was when a neighbour Estelle Van der Merwe says she heard arguments.

Who was awake – and when?

Pistorius says: He spoke to Reeva at around 3am, that she said to him: "What’s wrong, baba? Can’t you sleep?" And he replied, "not tonight".
The prosecution says: Why was this detail not made clear at the bail application, when he seemed to suggest he didn’t know if Reeva was asleep or awake.

What about the fans on the balcony?

Pistorius says: He went to the balcony to ‘bring in two fans’
The prosecution says: Why was there only one fan mentioned at the bail application a year ago, and why is he no longer claiming he went fully on to the balcony, and is now saying only part of one the fans was outside the balcony doors.

And the blue LED light on the stereo?

Pistorius says: He picked up Reeva’s discarded jeans, wishing to place them over a blue light coming from his amplifier, that was disturbing him.
The prosecution says: There were many lights on the amplifier, not just the blue one, and a red light on the television. Why was that one bothering him so much?

Why were Reeva's jeans on the floor and inside out?

Pistorius says: He picked up Reeva’s jeans from the floor.
The prosecution says: Why were Reeva’s jeans discarded on the floor, inside out, when all her other possessions were folded away neatly in her overnight bag? The prosecution says they were there because she was intending to put them on. That they had had an argument and she wanted to leave.

Was there a noise from the bathroom? And who could have made it?

Pistorius says: While attending to the fan, Pistorius says he heard the sound of his bathroom window opening. He immediately became sure an intruder had entered. He whispered to Reeva to get down, and shouted to the intruders to “Get the f**k out of my house.”
The prosecution says: How can he not have known Reeva had passed behind him and into the bathroom? It was pitch dark. She had her cellphone with her, which even Pistorius says she would probably have used to guide her. Yet he didn’t see this light as it passed down the passageway to his left. Even though, the tiny blue LED was bothering him.

Did the toilet door slam shut?

Pistorius says: He heard the toilet cubicle door slam shut, and became certain an intruder or intruders had shut themselves in there.
The prosecution says: There is no mention of this crucial noise in the bail application, or in his plea explanation. Pistorius says he told his defence counsel, but they left it out. “Why would they do that?” Nel asked him, many times. “I’m not sure,” was the athlete’s reply. The state also pointed out that the door was locked. Pistorius has never mentioned hearing the door locked. The sound of the door being locked was demonstrated. It is distinctive.

Why didn't he check on Reeva?

Pistorius says: He picked up his firearm and moved, slowly, on his stumps, down the passageway from bedroom to toilet, shouting for Reeva to phone the police. But at no time did she make any noise, or establish communication with him whatsoever. He maintains she would have hidden silently in the toilet, fearful of the intruders she imagined him to be shouting at.
The prosecution says: Why didn’t he first check if Reeva was OK, as he left the bedroom? How did he not establish that she wasn’t there. Both sets of neighbours who have testified in the case have said how, when they heard a noise in the middle of the night that night, they turned to each other and said ‘Did you hear that?’ But Oscar didn’t.

Why did Pistorius approach 'the intruder'?

Pistorius says: That he moved down the passage into the bathroom, his gun pointed in front of him, but held with a bent arm, loosely by his side and into the bathroom. There, he stopped shouting, as he didn’t want to ‘reveal his position'.
The prosecution says: Why would he move towards the danger? There were many options open to him. To go out on to the balcony, or to go out of the bedroom door and downstairs to safety.
Pistorius says: He is not one to "cower away. That’s not who I am". And that he moved toward the passage imagining Reeva to still be behind him in the bedroom, because he wanted to put himself between Reeva and the danger.

Did he mean to fire the gun?

Pistorius says: He had his gun pointed towards the toilet door. Not aimed, specifically, but pointed, as that’s where the danger was. He heard a sound of ‘wood moving’ inside the cubicle, that he perceived as "someone coming out to attack me" and "before I knew it, I had fired four shots at the door". He didn’t, he says "intend to kill anyone".
The prosecution says: He was "in control of his actions" at all times. That he could see the door. The handle didn’t move. The door didn’t move. Yet he still fired four shots into it. Why four, he was asked. Why didn’t he empty the whole magazine?

Did he know Reeva was in the toilet?

The prosecution says: Pistorius knew Reeva was behind the door. She was talking to him when he shot her. The bullet trajectory shows the first shot aimed towards the toilet. That he then changed position, and fired the next two in the direction of a magazine rack on the floor. The first bullet struck Reeva in the hip. Pistorius heard her fall, and then changed position.
Pistorius says: Simply that it isn’t true. And that there’s no way he could have heard Reeva fall. His ears were ringing from the gunshot in the enclosed space.

Did Reeva cry out?

Pistorius says: Reeva didn’t scream, not even at the first bullet that hit her thigh. There is no way his neighbours could have heard the sound of a woman’s screams during the gunshots that killed her. In his version of events, Reeva never screams. He also said he couldn’t hear himself scream after firing the shots, the ringing in his ears was so loud.
The prosecution says: Several of Pistorius’s neighbours claim to have heard the sound of a woman screaming. If he couldn’t hear himself scream, how could he be so certain Reeva didn’t scream? “You forgot about the ringing in your ears,” Prosecutor Nel put to him, as evidence that Pistorius was “tailoring” his story as he went along.

Did Pistorius scream?

Pistorius says: He ran back to the bedroom, calling out for Reeva. She wasn’t there. He checked by the side of the bed, where he told her to hide. He ran his hands along the curtains to see if she was behind them. She wasn’t. He began to think it could have been Reeva behind the door. He went out on the balcony and "cried for help".
The prosecution says: When the police arrived in the morning, the fan he had brought in from the balcony was directly in the way of the balcony doors. He couldn’t have gone out on the balcony to call for help, and that fan still be where it was.

Why didn't he look for Reeva anywhere else in the house?

The prosecution says: Why didn’t Oscar search the rest of the house? Check if Reeva had gone downstairs.
Pistorius says: He had already become fearful she was in the toilet cubicle. Why would he "waste time" searching the rest of the house?

What about the cricket bat?

Pistorius says: He put on his prosthetic legs, crying out for Reeva all the while, and went back to the bathroom and struck the door with a cricket bat. Eventually a piece at the top came away, and he saw Reeva slumped on the toilet. He found the key on the floor, opened the door, went into the bathroom and held her.
The prosecution says: Why, at that moment of intense panic and dread, discovering the body, did the screaming stop? That Pistorius didn’t scream at this time matches the version of events heard by the athlete’s neighbours. It is yet more 'tailoring of evidence'. The marks on the door are at a height that suggests Pistorius was on his stumps, not his prostheses.

And the blood and the duvet?

Pistorius says: He carried Reeva down the stairs and outside. A doctor neighbour arrived shortly after.
The prosecution says: There is blood spatter on the duvet on the floor in Pistorius’s bedroom, likely to have found its way there when the athlete carried Reeva’s body past. The spatter indicates the duvet was on the floor at the time, and Reeva’s jeans are on top of it.
Pistorius says: The duvet was on the bed when the incident happened. That it was placed on the floor by the police, who tampered with evidence at the crime scene.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in