PRETORIA (AFP) – Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial heard that police officers were clumsy with evidence and even stole a watch from the scene where Reeva Steenkamp was killed, in testimony from an ex-colleague on Friday.
Former station chief Giliam van Rensburg, who retired from the police last year, testified that an officer stole a watch worth as much as $10,000 (7,000 euros), in a damning indictment of his ex-colleagues.
The watch went missing while forensic experts were examining a blood-splattered box containing seven other timepieces and occurred even after Van Rensburg warned his staff against theft.
“I saw those watches and I said this is tempting for any person because this is expensive watches,” he told the court.
Van Rensburg described his reaction when he was later told a watch was gone.
“I said, ‘I can’t believe it. We were just there. How can this watch be gone?'”
Body and vehicle searches failed to turn up the missing watch and a theft docket was opened, he said, adding: “I was furious.”
The admission calls into question the police’s overall handling of the crime scene, in a case that is likely to hinge on sensitive forensic evidence.
Van Rensburg said Pistorius’s sister Aimee removed another watch in the presence of police while she fetched clothes for her brother.
Van Rensburg, the officer who arrested the Paralympic sprint star, said he later found another policeman mishandling the 9mm pistol that was used to kill Steenkamp and left on the blood-soaked bathroom mat.
“At that particular moment the ballistics expert was handling the firearm without gloves,” Van Rensburg told the court on Friday, adding that the policeman had already removed the magazine.
Pistorius defence lawyer Barry Roux already blasted police misconduct during the athlete’s bail hearing last year, and it is expected to be a key line of the defence as the trial continues.
During the bail hearing, lead investigator Hilton Botha admitted that he had walked through the scene without protective footwear and missed a bullet that had lodged in the toilet bowl.
Pistorius denies murdering Steenkamp, saying he shot the 29-year-old model through his locked bathroom door after he mistook her for an intruder.