The shooting death of model Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius has captured global attention and led to a bevy of questions about just what happened at the Olympic runner’s home in South Africa on Valentine’s Day.
Prosecutors in Pretoria, South Africa, have accused Pistorius, 26, of premeditated murder, saying he intentionally shot Steenkamp, 29, in the bathroom of his home in a gated community in the South African capital. He was released on bail Friday.
Pistorius, who gained global fame after running at the London 2012 Olympics on his carbon-fiber blades alongside able-bodied athletes, says he accidentally shot Steenkamp, mistaking her for an intruder.
The allegations by the prosecution and the explanation by Pistorius for Steenkamp’s shooting were one of many discrepancies between the prosecution and the defense in the unraveling in a Pretoria courtroom of what happened Feb. 14. Here is an outline of key elements in the case that has caused global shockwaves.
|The Night of the Shooting|
Lawyers said neighbors reported hearing shouts from Pistorius’ home the night of the shooting. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court Feb. 20 that a witness would testify to hearing “non-stop talking, like shouting” in the early hours before the dawn shooting.
When asked about the witness who allegedly heard yelling between Pistorius and Steenkamp, police officer Hilton Botha, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene, admitted under cross-examination that the woman was about 600 yards — six football fields — away at the time.
Pistorius says that he and Steenkamp had gone to bed, falling asleep hours before the shooting took place.
|Just Before the Shooting|
Pistorius has argued in court that he was closing his balcony doors Feb. 14 when he heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.
But prosecutors say that’s implausible, arguing that the gun’s holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp was sleeping, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn’t there.
Prosecutors argue that Pistorius, a double-amputee, took the time to put on his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs and walk to the bathroom, where he fired the gun, hitting Steenkamp three times. Their insistence that Pistorius took a moment to put the legs on indicates that he thought out and planned to kill Steenkamp.
There was a “deliberate aiming of shots at the toilet from about 1.5 meters [about 5 feet],” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.
They also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows that Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.
“[The angle] seems to me down. Fired down,” officer Botha told the court Feb. 20, suggesting that Pistorius was standing high up on his artificial legs.
Pistorius says he did not put on the prosthetics, and was on his stumps, and felt vulnerable when he shot through the bathroom door.
|Emergency Phone Calls|
Police said no calls to the police or ambulance service were made on any of the four cellphones — two iPhones and two BlackBerrys — found in the bathroom and bedroom of Pistorius’ home. Investigators said that guards at the gated estate called Pistorius, who told them he was “all right.” The call was not disconnected and they could hear him crying, police said.
Pistorius says he called the manager of the housing estate, and asked him to place a call for an ambulance. He says that he also called a private paramedic service. According to his lawyers, there was a fifth phone that Pistorius used to make the calls.
|Illegal Ammunition Charge|
While searching Pistorius’ home, investigators found illegal .38-caliber ammunition, which was in a safe in his bedroom. So, besides the murder charge, Pistorius might also face an additional charge.
|Hilton Botha’s Dismissal|
Hilton Botha, the lead investigator in the case, was booted from the investigation after the bail hearing ended Feb. 22. The decision came in light of the revelation that the detective is facing his own attempted murder charges in connection to an October 2011 shooting in which Botha and other police officers allegedly fired at passengers in a minibus they were attempting to stop.
The charges against Botha had been withdrawn because of insufficient evidence while the investigation was ongoing. It’s unclear why the prosecutor decided to reinstate the charges at this time.
Botha has served on the police force for 22 years. He is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder. Police Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo is now expected to lead the investigation of Steenkamp’s death.