How Carl Pistorius dodged a charge

2014-10-02 16:41

The team prosecuting Oscar Pistorius believed it had a case against the athlete’s brother Carl for defeating the ends of justice – but agreed not to if the defence accepted the chain of evidence related to Oscar’s cellphones, including a handset removed from the crime scene.

Two separate sources close to both the prosecution and defence have confirmed that Carl Pistorius had his brother’s iPhone for at least 24 hours after the athlete shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead in February 2013.

Oscar was convicted of culpable homicide last month and is due to be sentenced on October 13.

City Press’ sources confirm what’s revealed in a book by Eyewitness News (EWN) journalists Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman.

Their book, Behind the Door: the Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story, was released today.

In it, Wiener and Bateman detail the police’s desperate journey to Apple’s headquarters in California to try and find out what was on the iPhone.

They failed, but, the two write: “What the police did establish through this exercise was that at some point the cellphone was synchronised with a MacBook – one named ‘Titanium Hulk’. Only one person close to the accused has a fascination with the lumbering green Marvel Comics hero. It featured in his Twitter feed as quotes from comic strips; he wore green bandanas bearing the eyes of the behemoth; he edited pictures of himself to colour his own skin green; and one friend even remarked on social media, ‘You truly are the Titanium Hulk’. Carl Pistorius. His Gmail address contains that very name.

“So this was what had put a spanner in the works – it was suspected that when the phone was last synchronised a new password had been created, so relying on Oscar’s old password would obviously not have worked. To confirm their suspicions, a source said police were able to track the phone over the time it had been missing and compared it to data linked to Carl’s phone, which showed a potential overlap. Both phones followed the same route over a period of days.”

Police cellphone analyst Captain Francois Moller was supposed to start presenting evidence on Monday, March 24, this year.

“The weekend prior,” write Bateman and Wiener, “there was a strong rumour among the media that Carl Pistorius was about to be arrested”.

“Some had got wind that the Blade Runner’s brother might be charged with defeating the ends of justice for allegedly removing the phone from the crime scene and tampering with it.

“But it wasn’t to be – Carl was not arrested, nor was he charged.”

A statement from the Pistorius family, issued jointly with the athlete’s legal team last night in response to questions from EWN, read: “We are not sure of the allegations that are to be made or the source of such allegations, but we are not aware of any deletions having been affected by Oscar or effected on his instructions that could be relevant to this trial or could have impacted on this trial.

“As far as we are aware all relevant communications were put before the court. The relevance of the communications from Oscar’s phones, iPad and laptop was properly dealt with by the court and ultimately played no role in the matter, this having been found by the court.”

In the book, Bateman and Wiener write: “That Monday morning court started 11 minutes late and prosecutor Nel made an unexpected announcement to the court. Nel apologised to the court for starting a little late because the state had been ‘engaging with the defence in terms of certain admissions’.”

Nel made admissions, which he handed to the court, about the phones and how they had been handled by the police as part of the chain of evidence. That was the last of it, and Carl Pistorius was not charged.

“What had led to this unanticipated announcement of admissions being made by the defence related to the phones?” Bateman and Wiener ask.

“One might have expected that Oscar’s counsel would have fought tooth and nail against the contents of the phone being admitted to a trial court with such ease. It was also expected that the defence team would challenge each and every step taken by the police investigators in securing information and maintaining the integrity of the ‘chain of evidence’, as is so often the case in criminal courts in the country. This was even more pressing in this trial, where the defence had blatantly accused the police of tampering and contaminating the crime scene. It all seemed too easy.

“Did anything happen behind the scenes while the prosecution ‘engaged with the defence’ on the admissions?”

City Press interviewed three independent sources with intimate knowledge of the trial and has been reliably informed that the state agreed not to prosecute Carl Pistorius with defeating the ends of justice if the defence accepted the chain of evidence related to the phones, including the handset removed from the crime scene.

Accepting the chain of evidence dispensed with the state’s need to call the original investigating officer, Hilton Botha, who was seen by prosecutors as a liability.

“In hindsight perhaps we should have gone on the offensive but at the end of the day Gerrie Nel had to weigh up one evil against another – and the fact is Hilton Botha could have sunk the state’s case,” one source said.

A second source close to the National Prosecuting Authority said that because it wasn’t clear what had been deleted from Oscar’s cellphone, it would have been difficult to charge Carl Pistorius.

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