Rebecca Davis (LIFE ETC) 14 MARCH 2014 07:30
Former Boschkop Police Station Commander, Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg,
takes the stand on Thursday, 13 March 2014. PHOTO: Alet Pretorius/Media24/Pool
We're finally in double digits, people. This is the tenth day on which Oscar Pistorius will appear in the dock charged with murder. We just have to get through today, and then we can all spend a rewarding weekend working on our own conspiracy theories and rubbishing everyone else's. REBECCA DAVIS is patient and vigilant in the North Gauteng High Court.
We saw some fairly dramatic images of Pistorius himself photographed after police arrived on the scene, standing topless with his shorts, arms and prosthetic legs smeared with blood, and his fists clenched. Lawyers and witness van Rensburg also inspected photographs of Steenkamp's body and head wounds, but we were mercifully spared this.
Nel, who clearly knew that Barry Roux was going to leap on this like a cop on an unattended watch, brought up the issue of Pistorius's allegedly missing watches. There were eight watches in a case, van Rensburg explained. One single watch had an estimated value of between R50 000 and R100 000. Van Rensburg said that he saw the watches in Pistorius's bedroom, but they could not be moved because there was a smear of blood on the case.
Later, the police photographer and a team began work in the bedroom without van Rensburg being present. After van Rensburg joined them, he noticed two watches were missing. He asked police photographer van Staden if he knew anything about them. Van Staden had replied that Pistorius's sister Aimee had taken one for her brother to wear, but the whereabouts of the other watch were unknown.
All police and experts present were body-searched, together with their cars, but the watch could not be found.
Following the watch theft: another revelation of embarrassing police bungling. Van Rensburg testified that he came upon a ballistics expert handling Pistorius's gun without wearing gloves.
"Sorry," the ballistics expert said, when van Rensburg reproached him.
Van Rensburg also attempted to explain the handling of the that vital piece of evidence, the toilet door, which Roux is certainly going to return to. In particular, van Rensburg defended keeping the door in his office for some time on the grounds that there was good security there.
When Roux stood to commence his cross-examination, he laid out his theory from the start. Van Rensburg, he said, was being called by the state to give wider evidence than he was strictly capable of, in order to prevent the need to call the disastrous Hilton Botha to the stand. He's probably right.
Roux also returned to the fact that van Rensburg had been investigating an armed robbery on a nearby estate when he received the call-out to Pistorius's place. Every time a witness has mentioned the threat or reality of crime, Roux has been at pains to draw them out on the matter in order to bolster the legitimacy of Pistorius's claim that he felt his life to be under threat. Roux confirmed that the estate where the robbery happened was affluent, and that affluence was little protection against crime.
After the break, Roux will probably be rolling up his sleeves to get started on the problems with the case's police work.
This is relevant partly because we know from the bail hearing that Botha made some disastrous missteps, such as walking through the crime scene without protective coverings, thus potentially contaminating evidence. It's also relevant because if Botha was operating alone at various points, the defence can claim that the state's failure to call him as a witness speaks volumes.
(Note that we don't yet know if Botha will or won't be called as a state witness, even though he is on the witness list. When Roux asked him about it earlier, Nel said that he hadn't made his mind up yet.)
Roux was also able to win various concessions from van Rensburg as to aspects of the crime scene he had mis-observed or failed to record correctly in his testimony. For instance, van Rensburg appeared not to have noticed that the door of Pistorius's house was sealed differently with crime tape in two different photos from the same day. He also claimed that upon his first visit to Pistorius's bathroom, he noticed that the cricket bat used to bang the door down had cricketers' signatures on it. But in fact, he could only have seen this later, when the bat was lifted and overturned.
"How do you feel about your ability to observe?" Roux asked van Rensburg at one point. It was clear from the question what he considered the answer to be.
himself open to be "MISCONSTRUED!"
THEN THERE IS THE "SIDE SHOW ON CARTE BLANCHE CHANNEL 199" WHERE EVERY WANNEBEE
SLEUTH IN THE RSA HAS THEIR SAY ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRIAL, THE EXHIBITS AND THE
ALL THIS HYPE LEAVES 'CSI AND OTHER SOAPIES IN THE PAST!'
LEAVE JUDGEMENT TO THE COMPETENT JUDGE MASIPA.