The Oscar Pistorius saga took another bizarre turn on Thursday. USA TODAY Sports looks back at the first week of the ongoing case and picked the 10 most shocking facts yet.
1. The killing. The most important facts of the case are not in doubt: Early on Valentine’s Day morning, Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian who is arguably South Africa’s biggest sporting star, shot through a bathroom door at his home in Pretoria and killed his girlfriend, 29-year-old model and law school graduate Reeva Steenkamp. Was it cold-blooded murder, as police claim, or did Pistorius think he was shooting at an intruder? Lawyers will argue, a verdict will be reached and observers around the world will debate, but only one man knows the answer, and he’s sitting in a holding cell, awaiting word on whether he’ll go free before South Africa’s trial of the century.
2. The lead detective charged with seven attempted murders. Detective Hilton Botha dealt a blow to the prosecution on Wednesday after he was forced to admit shoddy police work upon defense cross-examination. (See No. 3.) That was nothing compared to Thursday’s bombshell. It was revealed that Botha is facing seven attempted murder charges stemming from a 2011 incident in which he and two other officers shot at a minivan. Reports say the men were chasing down a murder suspect. The charges had been dropped but were reinstated 10 days before Steenkamp’s death.
The National Prosecuting Authority said Botha’s past is “completely unrelated” to the trial. Barry Roux, a defense lawyer for Pistorius, disagrees. Though the 2011 incident certainly had no bearing on the Feb. 14 events at the home of Pistorius, it may cloud the trial. Observers were quick to point out how questions about the integrity of Detective Mark Fuhrman possibly swayed the O.J. Simpson jury to acquit the former football star of double murder.
3. Police blunders. Botha initially said the two witnesses who heard screaming from Pistorius’ house on the night of the killing were 600 meters away. He later changed the distance to 300 meters. Other admissions: Investigators missed a spent bullet in the toilet and didn’t take pictures of a box of bullets but snapped photos of Pistorius’ medals.
4. Was he wearing his prosthetic legs? Pistorius says he walked to the bathroom on his stumps, then shot through the door. Botha said the angle of the bullet holes suggest Pistorius was standing tall on his prosthetics. The police theory gives credence to a charge of premeditation. If Pistorius had time to put on his prosthetics, they’ll argue, then he wasn’t getting out of bed quickly to pursue an intruder.
Complicating the issue is Botha’s later admission that police found no inconsistencies in Pistorius’ account of events. Which is it? Do the angles of the bullet trajectories contradict Pistorius’ statement or don’t they?
5. The empty bladder debate. An autopsy revealed Steenkamp’s bladder was empty when she was killed. Since it would be highly unlikely for a person’s bladder to be fully empty at 3 a.m., the defense says this shows Steenkamp was using the bathroom before the killing. The theory floated: She locked herself inside after hearing Pistorius yelling at an intruder.
6. Bloody cricket bat. “Was Steenkamp’s skull crushed with bloodied cricket bat ‘found’ at Pistorius’s house?” blared a headline in the Daily Mail after reports emerged that police were considering a theory that Pistorius beat Steenkamp to death. That scenario has since been dismissed. Pistorius said he used the bat to break down the bathroom door, and police have not suggested otherwise.
7. Pistorius’ confidence. A front page article in The Times (of South Africa) quoted a police officer who said he had contact with Pistorius after Wednesday’s hearings. “He’s convinced he’ll be out by the weekend and back on the track before the end of the year,” the officer said. Would an innocent man be that confident? Could a guilty man be that delusional? If that quote is accurate, psychologists could have a field day dissecting it.
8. Drugs? Botha said police found two boxes of testosterone, syringes and needles in a bedroom cabinet. Later, a police spokesman admitted the contents of the box were unknown. Testosterone is a banned substance by the IOC. The defense says the boxes contained an herbal remedy commonly used for intimate enhancement purposes.
9. The gun on the nightstand. On its Thursday front page, the New York Daily News ran a 2010 photograph of a bedside table at Pistorius’ house. Scattered among the routine items like car keys and a remote control is a Taurus hand gun.
10. Media circus overshadows all. While the world is transfixed by the drama in a Pretoria courtroom, it’s easy to lose sight of the tragedy of a woman dying young and the family that’s left to pick up the pieces.