Police procedures come under spotlight

2014-03-14 17:17
Former Boschkop police station commander, Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg (Alet Pretorius, AFP)

Former Boschkop police station commander, Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg (Alet Pretorius, AFP)

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Pretoria - A former police officer testifying in Oscar Pistorius's murder trial was put through a rigorous set of "spot the difference" questions on Friday.

These related to police procedure in the hours after the Paralympian shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Former Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg had to read through excerpts of police statements and examine photographs taken of the scene on the morning of 14 February 2013 when Pistorius shot Steenkamp.

He said he thought she was an intruder in the toilet and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder which the State alleges was premeditated.

Advocate Barry Roux for Pistorius, pointed out changes such as a "Mr Steenkamp" recorded as the person who phoned emergency services instead of a "Mr Stander" at the Silver Woods Estate in Pretoria.

Van Rensburg initially thought he found three cellphones, but discovered that two were actually the back and front of one, and another one was pointed out by a police photographer.

He said as investigations proceeded, details changed as more observations were made.

When the lead policeman attended to a scene, his first tour of the scene was not just to notice things but also to help colleagues. Then other things were noticed.

Roux was trying to establish who had gone upstairs first to where Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp in the toilet.

He did not appear to accept Van Rensburg's explanation that it was himself and investigating officer Hilton Botha who went up first, because his statement did not mention Botha.

Van Rensburg said that in police statements "I" can sometimes mean "we".

Difference in pics

Van Rensburg, the former Boschkop police station commander, had been the first policeman to arrive at the scene after attending to an armed robbery before that.

He was also present when the house was finally sealed and locked up.

Now a sports coach after resigning in December, he told Roux he did not notice a difference between two pictures of the front door of Pistorius's house sealed.

He modestly described his observation skills as above average because of his work and was astounded when told the seal patterns on the door were completely different in the two photographs and that he had missed that detail.

He recovered to say the pictures on the screen shown in the court were moving very quickly and were not showed next to each other to allow comparison.

Showing signs of hesitation after another question in a gruelling morning of cross-examination, Roux said: "It's not a trick question I see you don't want to make observations anymore."

Roux finally asked Judge Thokozile Masipa for a lunch break with his customary: "Will this be an opportune moment?" and court was adjourned for an hour.

Pistorius also faces charges under the Firearms Control Act for allegedly discharging a firearm in a restaurant in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg and out of a sunroof in the Modderfontein area.

Read more on:    hilton botha  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  crime  |  pistorius trial

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