Three deny murder of British miner | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Three men accused of murdering a renowned British gemologist in a row over mining rights have claimed they were nowhere near the spot where he was attacked with clubs, spears and knives, in southern Kenya, four years ago.

Mohammed Dadi Kokane, Alfred Njuruka Makoko and Osman Abdi Hussein were the first of seven suspects accused of murdering Campbell Bridges to give evidence in their defence in a Mombasa court yesterday.

All three denied any involvement in his murder, despite being placed at the scene by at least three eye-witnesses including Mr Bridges’ son, Bruce.

Mr Makoko, who said he was farming onions when Mr Bridges was killed, had vowed to kill the Scottish prospector less than 24 hours earlier, the murder trial heard.

Mr Kokane said he was herding cattle at the time, while Mr Hussein said he had never seen or heard of Mr Bridges, because he never ventured outside his hotel.

Judge Maureen Odero ruled in February that all seven suspects had a case to answer, while a woman, who was not at the scene was acquited.

Mr Bridges, 71, was ambushed by a gang of around 30 men as he drove towards a mining camp near the southern town of Voi, in August 2009. The seven in court were all accused of participating in the attack, on a remote stretch of road which had been deliberately blocked by thorn trees.

Mr Bridges’ case is highly unusual, by virtue of the fact it has come this far. The killers of other high profile Britons, including Julie Ward who was killed in the Masai Mara game reserve in 1988, Alex Monson who was beaten to death in police custody in 2012, and the former British army colonels Edward Loden and David Parkinson, who were shot in separate incidents in 2013, have never been brought to justice.

Britain’s High Commissioner Christian Turner sent a representative to watch yesterday’s proceedings after Mrs Bridges accused the British government had abandoning her quest for justice.

“It makes a statement to the court that other people are watching,” said Judith Bridges, the gemologist’s widow. “It’s an important case, especially if Kenya wants to present itself as a place for [foreign] investors.” (Read more…)

Steenkamp ‘had no time to scream’ as bullets hit her | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

All four bullets from Oscar Pistorius’s pistol struck his girlfriend as she was falling to the floor, which means that she would not have had time to scream, the athlete’s murder trial was told yesterday.

An expert witness on Mr Pistorius’s defence team challenged the prosecution’s claim that one bullet missed Reeva Steenkamp, as he painted an alternative scenario of what happened in Mr Pistorius’s bathroom.

Roger Dixon, a former police forensic science officer, said that all four expanding bullets hit the model in quick succession, as Mr Pistorius had testified. He also claimed that bruises on her back were caused by sliding against a magazine rack, and not by ricochets of bullet fragments, as the prosecution claimed. (Read more…)

Pistorius defence undermined by his own expert witness

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

An expert witness on Oscar Pistorius’ defence team contradicted part of the athlete’s testimony today, bolstering prosecution’s claims that the runner lied about the night he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Roger Dixon, a former police forensics officer, had been hired by the defence to shore up Mr Pistorius version but ended up casting doubt on what the athlete said.

Mr Dixon said Miss Steenkamp collapsed on to a magazine rack, injuring her back, when Mr Pistorius shot her, through a toilet door, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, last year. (Read more…)

Today is the day to say ‘I love you’ - Reeva’s Valentine’s card | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Just hours before Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend dead with dumdum bullets, the 29-year-old model had written him a Valentine’s Day card which said that the day would have been a good time to say “I love you”.

The athlete’s lawyers made him read the card as he emerged from five days of gruelling cross-examination, in which the prosecution claimed that his account of killing Reeva Steenkamp was “so improbable it cannot possibly be true”.

“I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you,” Miss Steenkamp wrote in the card which had “Happy Valentine’s Day” printed inside.

She had written his nickname, Ozzy, on the envelope and decorated it with hearts. Inside, she signed it “Reeves” with a smiley face and three kisses.

She had filled a photo frame with pictures of the couple and wrapped it as a present, but she never had a chance to give it to Mr Pistorius because he shot her in his bathroom in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013. (Read more…)

The outside of the Valentine’s Day card which Reeva Steenkamp had planned to give to Oscar Pistorius, before the shot her.

The outside of the Valentine’s Day card which Reeva Steenkamp had planned to give to Oscar Pistorius, before the shot her.

Today is the day to say ‘I love you’ - Reeva’s Valentine’s card | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend had written him a Valentine’s Day card saying the day he shot her would be a good day to tell him that she loved him.

Details of the card, which was only opened after Reeva Steenkamp had died, were shown to the athlete’s murder trial today at the end of his cross-examination.

“I think today is a good day to tell you that….I love you,” Miss Steenkamp wrote, on the card which had a printed “Happy Valentine’s Day” message.

She signed the card “Reeves” with a smiley face and three kisses. (Read more…)

"A good day to say I love you." Reeva Steenkamp’s Valentine’s Day message to Oscar Pistorius. Picture supplied by Pistorius family.

"A good day to say I love you." Reeva Steenkamp’s Valentine’s Day message to Oscar Pistorius. Picture supplied by Pistorius family.

Relief in Pistorius camp as five-day grilling finishes | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

A prosecutor attempted to pick one last hole in Oscar Pistorius’s testimony as the athlete ended five days of gruelling cross-examination today.

A psychologist who was sitting with the athlete’s relatives clapped her hands in silent applause when state prosecutor Gerrie Nel indicated he had no more questions, but Mr Pistorius gave no visible sign of relief.

It ended five days of dogged and detailed questioning in which Mr Nel exposed a series of discrepancies in Mr Pistorius’s evidence, which the athlete struggled to explain.

Summarising the case, Mr Nel said that Reeva Steenkamp had eaten within two hours of her death, which was when the couple had an argument which their neighbour overheard.

The bloodcurdling screams that four other neighbours heard were Miss Steenkamp’s, the prosecutor said, not the athlete’s as his lawyers claimed.

“They heard that when she escaped from you,” Mr Nel said.

Miss Steenkamp then locked herself in the toilet.

“You shot four shots through that door whilst knowing that she was standing there,” Mr Nel insisted. “You knew that she was talking to you…You armed yourself for the sole purpose of shooting and killing her, and that’s what you did.” (Read more…)

Pistorius cries only when his lies are laid bare, says prosecutor | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius cries in court only when his lies are exposed, the prosecutor in his trial alleged yesterday, as he attacked the athlete’s account of his killing of Reeva Steenkamp.

During a bruising day in the witness box for Mr Pistorius, the state prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, accused the sprinter of concocting evidence, changing his defence, and relying on invented details that were missing from his earlier accounts of the night he shot his girlfriend.

Mr Nel said that the athlete shouted at Ms Steenkamp to “get the f*** out of my house”, as she fled to the bathroom, fearing for her life. The athlete said he shouted the words at a perceived intruder, but the prosecution claimed they were said as part of an argument.

“You have concocted a version which is tailored to fit the state’s case and you are tailoring your version as you are sitting,” Mr Nel said. “It is the state’s case that [Reeva] wanted to leave and that you weren’t sleeping. You were both awake and there was an argument.”

The athlete admits killing Ms Steenkamp but says he mistook her for an intruder. He broke down when Mr Nel asked him what he shouted. There was a pause as the athlete sat back in his chair and rubbed his hands over his face. “I said get the f*** out of my house! Get the f*** out of my house!” he responded angrily, his voice rising slowly into a tearful crescendo.

After an adjournment for Mr Pistorius to compose himself, Mr Nel berated the athlete for his tears, suggesting he was upset because he had screamed those words at Ms Steenkamp. “Why would you get upset? Isn’t it exactly because that’s what you shouted at Reeva? Get the f*** out of my house?” he asked.

Mr Nel accused him of weeping when his case unravelled. “When I said you wanted to shoot Reeva you didn’t burst into tears, you just said ‘no’. I indicated to you how your defence came unstuck. That caused the emotion.” (Read more…)

Get out of my house, Pistorius screamed as he approached Reeva, trial told | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius screamed at his girlfriend to “get the f*** out” of his house moments before he shot her through a locked lavatory door, his murder trial heard today.

The athlete claimed that he was shouting at a perceived intruder, but the prosecution insisted it was part of an argument with Reeva Steenkamp, who was trying to leave his home in Pretoria.

The state prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, accused the sprinter of concocting his evidence, changing his defence and inventing key details that were missing from his earlier accounts as he attempted to unravel Mr Pistorius’ testimony.

“You have concocted a version which is tailored to suit the state’s case and you are tailoring your version,” Mr Nel said.

“It is the state’s case, Mr Pistorius, that [Reeva] wanted to leave and that you weren’t sleeping. You were both awake and that there was an argument.”

The athlete admits killing Miss Steenkamp by firing four shots through a locked bathroom door, but denies the state’s charge of premeditated murder because he said he mistook her for an intruder. His lawyers said the state had no evidence for the “non-existent argument”.

Mr Pistorius broke down when Mr Nel asked him what he shouted at the person he thought was an intruder as he crept towards the bathroom. He had been rubbing his eyes but appeared composed until that point.

“Do you remember what you shouted?” Mr Nel demanded.

There was a pause as the athlete sat back in his chair and rubbed his hands over his face.

“I do,” he said, his voice rising slowly in a tearful crescendo. “I said ‘Get the f*** out of my house! Get the f*** out of my house!’ ” (Read more…)

Oscar’s bedroom: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel claims photos like this show Mr Pistorius’ version is a lie. He insists police moved key artefacts, after he shot and killed hi s girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete denies murder.

Oscar’s bedroom: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel claims photos like this show Mr Pistorius’ version is a lie. He insists police moved key artefacts, after he shot and killed hi s girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete denies murder.

Judge tells Pistorius: you are making mistakes | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius’s first week in the witness box ended badly yesterday, as Judge Thokozile Masipa said the athlete was “making mistakes” under cross-examination.

In her first public utterances on Mr Pistorius’s performance, she warned him not to continue if he was too tired to concentrate, after the prosecutor had picked holes in his testimony and ­accused him of tailoring his evidence to “cover up for lies”.

“It’s important that you should be all here when you are in the witness box,” Judge Masipa said. “If [the] reason you are making all these mistakes is because you are tired, you must say so.”

In the absence of a jury, Judge Masipa will decide Mr Pistorius’s fate, with the help of two legal assessors.

There were at least five occasions ­yesterday when the athlete seemed to contradict himself.

He said he had whispered to Reeva Steenkamp when he reached for his gun, but later said: “I did not whisper. I said it in a soft manner.”

He said she didn’t scream when he shot her, but later that he couldn’t be sure; he said he turned his house alarm off, and later that he couldn’t remember doing so; he denied saying that he had heard someone kick the door, but ­Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, proved that he had.

Mr Nel told him: “I think that you are trying to cover up for lies.” He added: “You can’t just give contradictory versions and apologise. Your mistakes are as convincing as your ­evidence in the way you deliver them. And that’s a problem.”

Mr Pistorius, 27, said he was making mistakes because he was exhausted, but told the judge he could carry on.

Mr Nel asked him about his faith, his fear of crime, the house alarm, a fracas with a footballer, and the moments ­before he opened fire on Ms Steenkamp, 29. He said the athlete’s account was “far fetched” and added: “Your version never happened and you have to keep up with an untruth. Isn’t that so?” (Read more…)

Police photographs of Oscar’s bedroom show #Pisorius’ fan next to bedroom chest, cord free contrary to Nel’s suggestion. He claimed he was here when he heard the sound that “changed everything”.

Police photographs of Oscar’s bedroom show #Pisorius’ fan next to bedroom chest, cord free contrary to Nel’s suggestion. He claimed he was here when he heard the sound that “changed everything”.

Oscar Pistorius’s version of events ‘so improbable no one will believe it’ | The Times

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius lied, changed his story and constructed an account of how he killed his girlfriend that is “so improbable” no one will believe it, his murder trial heard today.

Even his own father, Henke, had refused to give evidence in his son’s defence, the prosecution said.

By the end of a second gruelling day of cross-examination, the athlete admitted he was negligent with guns, he blamed his lawyers three times for discrepancies in his evidence and claimed one of his best friends and his ex-girlfriend had both lied about him in court.

He also used the same excuse, that he didn’t have time to think, to explain why he opened fire on Miss Steenkamp and why a gun went off in his hands, in a crowded Johannesburg restaurant, in two unrelated incidents.

“Didn’t have time to think? We had that yesterday,” said Gerrie Nel, the state prosecutor. “That is one of your defences.”

Mr Nel said it was a miracle that the gun “went off by itself”. “You are blaming everybody but you won’t take responsibility. That gun cannot fire if you don’t pull the trigger. Who did?” he demanded.

“I don’t know, my lady,” Mr Pistorius said, addressing Judge Thokozile Masipa.

Mr Nel said the athlete had refused to take responsibility for shooting the gun, which was part of a pattern of selfish behaviour and shirking blame.

Asked about the moments immediately before he killed Reeva Steenkamp, Mr Nel accused the athlete of “adapting” his account.

“When I asked you first you said you didn’t see [Reeva]. You said your hands were on your face. Now you are saying you could see a silhouette. You are adapting,” Mr Nel said.

The athlete admits killing Miss Steenkamp but denies premeditated murder because he said he mistook her for an intruder.

“Your version is a lie,” Mr Nel told the court, as he picked small but significant holes in Mr Pistorius’ evidence. (Read more…)