PRETORIA (AFP) – Oscar Pistorius was aware of gun safety rules restricting the use of lethal force against intruders, a gun dealer testified on Monday as the Paralympian’s trial for killing his girlfriend entered its third week.
Gun licenser Sean Rens told the court in Pretoria that the 27-year-old athlete, who stands accused of intentionally shooting dead his girlfriend, had scored highly on a test for gun owners.
“Always know your target and what lies behind,” was one of the answers Pistorius correctly gave when asked about firearm safety rules, Rens said.
The double-amputee sprinter also correctly answered that a weapon could be fired only if under direct threat from advancing armed burglars, but not in other scenarios, the court heard.
Pistorius claims he shot 29-year-old Steenkamp through a locked toilet door after mistaking her for an intruder.
But the state has charged him with premeditated murder, arguing that he fired at Steenkamp in a fit of rage during an argument on Valentine’s Day 2013.
As the trial marked its 11th day, police photographer Bennie van Staden walked the court through detailed pictures he took at the Paralympic gold medallist’s upmarket Pretoria home.
He described seeing blood splatters on the bedroom duvet and the wall behind the athlete’s bed.
The defence’s version of events is that Pistorius and Steenkamp were peacefully sleeping before the runner accidentally shot his girlfriend and then broke down the toilet door to reach her.
The state meanwhile has drawn on previous gun incidents involving Pistorius to depict the sporting hero as a trigger-happy gun lover.
- Gun order cancelled -
The court heard on Monday that Pistorius had placed an order for six guns in 2012 including a Smith & Wesson 500, described by its manufacturer as the “most powerful production revolver in the world”.
He also ordered a Vector .223-calibre rifle, a 38-calibre Smith & Wesson revolver, an unidentified rifle or carbine gun, and two shotguns: a Mossberg Maverick and a Winchester.
But the order was annulled after Steenkamp’s death.
“The transaction was cancelled a month post-incident,” said Rens, manager of a firearms training academy in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg.
South African law allows non-collectors to possess only four firearms.
Pistorius also faces three unrelated charges over firing a gun in a restaurant and from a moving car, and for the illegal possession of ammunition.
Asked in the gun licensing test if he could fire at burglars stealing a hifi sound system from his house, Pistorius answered no as his life was not in immediate danger, Rens told the court.
Rens also said the athlete told him he once drew his gun inside his house at a suspicious noise, which turned out to be a laundry machine.
“He went into what we call ‘code red’, or combat mode, in other words to draw his gun and go and clear his house,” Rens testified.
Pistorius tweeted about the incident in November 2012 saying: “Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!”
He later deleted the post.
Also on Monday, a series of photographs from Van Staden’s 15 photo albums of the crime scene were presented in court, amid claims from the prosecution that the police investigation was flawed.
Steenkamp’s mother June, who was attending the court proceedings for the first time since the trial began on March 3, left as the room was shown pictures of Pistorius’s bloodstained prostheses.
Defence lawyers are arguing that police contaminated the scene after officers last week conceded to moving evidence, handling a gun without gloves and even stealing from Pistorius’s house.
Van Staden defended his actions, saying he moved the athlete’s duvet and bloodied towels in the bathroom to look for further evidence, and only after documenting their original position.