Gareth Wilson, Angela Gillham and Graeme Hosken
AS a Pretoria court was told a witness heard "non-stop shouting" in the home of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius shortly before Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead, her extended family were leaving Port Elizabeth following her funeral.
The slain law graduate and model's parents, Barry and June, will now have to fetch her ashes and decide where they will be scattered, while her family will also be considering counselling.
In a day of fierce legal blows in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court, the team defending Pistorius yesterday tried to unravel and unnerve the state's key witness, punching holes in his testimony with hardhitting questions.
Warrant Officer Hilton Botha admitted he had missed key evidence – a spent bullet in the toilet bowl – and that he might have contaminated the crime scene.
Pistorius, 26, appeared before Pretoria chief magistrate Desmond Nair on the second day of his bail hearing.
The internationally renowned doubleamputee allegedly deliberately murdered his 29-year-old girlfriend early on Valentine's Day while she was locked in the toilet of Pistorius's R5-million Pretoria East home.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said two neighbours had heard arguments for nearly an hour coming from the Pistorius home before the shooting.
These were allegedly followed by screams, two gunshots, a 17-minute silence and then more shots.
A discrepancy the state had with Pistorius's version of the shooting was how three cartridge cases had landed in the bathroom and one in the passage outside. In his affidavit, Pistorius said he fired four shots into the toilet door, believing an intruder was inside. This was after he had rushed to the bathroom without his prosthetic limbs to investigate a noise.
"We believe he was moving into the bathroom firing ... there was no escape for Steenkamp," Botha said.
The trajectory of the bullets suggested Pistorius was, in fact, wearing his prosthetic limbs when he opened fire. The state alleges all the shots were fired from a height downwards through the door, towards where Steenkamp was sitting.
Taking Botha through his testimony, Nel cast doubt on why, if Pistorius felt vulnerable without his prosthetics, as claimed, he would have approached "the danger" in the bathroom.
Botha replied: "If I was scared and my girlfriend was with me, I would have tried to protect her first ... and if I didn't need to go towards the bathroom and could have gone straight out the room, I would have." Pistorius claims that, on realising it was Steenkamp he had shot, he phoned the estate's administrator and paramedics.
But, according to the police, none of the four cellphones found in his home had been used that morning.
In fierce cross-examination, Advocate Barry Roux told the investigating officer there was a fifth cellphone on the premises – which Pistorius had used to call paramedics – but that the police had not asked his client for it.
"Instead of verifying information, you introduce untested evidence ... there is proof Oscar phoned Netcare and the guards, who heard weeping."
Referring to drugs alleged to have been found in the house, Roux added: "You know the testosterone [your word for steroids] was herbal ... You contaminated the crime scene ... not intentionally ... but you forgot your protective shoe coverings."
Botha conceded this was correct.
Roux continued: "Our forensic experts found a 'spent bullet' in the toilet bowl, which you missed ...
"Reeva's bladder was empty when she died, evidence consistent with claims she went to the toilet ... It is significant ... the truth is, you couldn't find anything inconsistent with Pistorius's account or [that] indicates premeditated murder. Correct?"
In response, Botha said the police were confident of their case and were awaiting final reports on ballistics, forensics and pathology matters, which would shore up their case. Asked by Nel about the number of cellphones involved, Botha replied that he was battling to obtain evidence, including the "mysterious fifth cellphone".
"We found a holster, a safe with 38 .38 special unlicensed rounds of ammunition, four cellphones ... [on] none of which calls [had been] made to police, complex security guards or paramedics ... drugs believed to be steroids, syringes, needles and a cricket bat with blood splatters ...
"We were suspicious. On top of this there was a memory stick containing details of an overseas bank account on it, which his brother and lawyer took. We are concerned Pistorius is a flight risk. He has assets he has not declared – an offshore bank account and a house in Italy." Botha told the court that, in 2009, he had questioned Pistorius at his home on a charge of assault, which was later dropped.
Last night, an officer who had contact with Pistorius at the Brooklyn police station said the athlete had expressed confidence following yesterday's proceedings.
"He's convinced he'll be out by the weekend and back on the track before the end of the year."
While the court drama took place Steenkamp's half-brother, Adam, yesterday looked more relaxed while standing outside his parents' house at Seaview to address the media.
"The funeral went well given the circumstances. Everyone is still upset but the get-together of all the family and Reeva's friends was exactly what needed to happen," he said.
Attempts to talk to Reeva's parents were unsuccessful, while Adam declined to be drawn into comment on the Pistorius bail application, saying that he had "briefly" watched it on the television news.
"It is now up to the professionals and the justice system to run its course," he added.
By the afternoon, Reeva's uncle, Michael, and cousin, Sharon, had flown back to Cape Town. Adam is scheduled to leave today.
An exhausted-sounding Michael said Reeva's parents would need time to settle down after the funeral and decide on a way forward.
"My wife and I will no longer be with them but they do have supportive friends around," he said. "Over the next few days there will be things that need to be done ... ashes to be fetched."
He believed Reeva's parents would soon want to know more information.
"They are at a new stage in their lives now and their mindset will change. Now that Reeva's funeral is over they are going to want to know what happened."
Asked if any of the family would attend the trial, Michael said they would not, but close friends of Reeva's would be there.
Cousin Sharon said she believed counselling would be needed for the family.
"We'll have to try and get counselling for both the PE and Cape Town family, but up to this point we were only focusing on getting through yesterday [Reeva's funeral]."