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Oscar Pistorius in court: Defense exposes cracks in police evidence

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Defense lawyers exposed apparent weaknesses in the police evidence against Oscar Pistorius Wednesday as a court heard more dramatic details of the night he fatally shot his girlfriend.

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete stared fixedly at the floor, sobbing occasionally, as a senior investigator described the scene when officers arrived at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

Pistorius wore a black suit and blue tie on the second day of a hearing that will decide whether he would be bailed over charges that the shooting of 29-year-old law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp was premeditated.

Dubbed the "Blade Runner," Pistorius maintains he fired into his locked bathroom in a panic over a possible prowler. However, prosecutors say he put on his artificial legs and stalked Steenkamp to the bathroom to kill her.

Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, an experienced detective, testified that a witness heard shouting for an hour coming from the house shortly before the shooting.

Another witness heard gunshots, saw lights on in the house, heard a woman screaming two or three times, then heard another few shots, Botha said.

But under cross-examination, Botha admitted one of the witnesses was 1,000 feet away from the house at the time.

Botha told the court that needles and testosterone were found in the athlete's bedroom.

The double-amputee's defense lawyer Barry Roux disputed that claim, saying the substance was in fact a herbal remedy and that police had misread the label. State prosecutor Gerrie Nel also had to correct Botha when he initially called the substance "steroids." 

Botha said Steenkamp's body was clothed and covered in towels, and that one bullet cartridge was discovered in the hallway of Pistorius' home, with three more found in the bathroom. A firearm was found on the shower mat.

The investigator said he wanted to charge Pistorius with possession of unlicensed ammunition, according to Reuters.

None of the phones found at Pistorius' house had been used to call police, Botha said.

The court heard a discussion about the layout inside of the detached house, in an upmarket, gated compound north of Pretoria.

Botha said the angle at which shots were fired through the door of a locked toilet within Pistorius' en suite bathroom suggested the shooter had aimed specifically to hit somebody on the toilet.

"I believe he knew she was in the bathroom," Botha said.

The downward trajectory of the shots suggests Pistorius was wearing his artificial legs when he pulled the trigger, he added.

However, there were gasps from Pistorius' family as Botha struggled to answer questions under cross-examination. Two female relatives glanced at each other and smiled.

The defense said Steenkamp’s bladder was empty, consistent with having gone to the toilet, as claimed by Pistorius.

It also emerged that Botha had prior dealings with Pistorius, having attended a 2009 incident at the house at which the athlete was arrested but not charged.

There was laughter in the courtroom as Botha insisted there was a risk Pistorius would flee if given bail, despite skepticism from magistrate, Desmond Nair.

As Wednesday's session closed, Pistorius seemed composed. The hearing resumes Thursday, but is expected to conclude by the end of the week.

On the first day of the hearing, prosecutors and the defense presented clashing accounts of how and why Pistorius shot Steenkamp.

A court statement from Pistorius denied "in the strongest terms" that he had deliberately killed Steenkamp, adding that the athlete was "deeply in love'' with her, according to Reuters.

"I had no intention to kill my girlfriend," the statement said.

Pistorius has hired his own high-profile forensic expert to analyze the police reports and post-mortem exam, South Africa news station ENCA reported.

His defense team includes lawyer Kenny Oldwage, who previously won an acquittal for a driver accused of killing Nelson Mandela's great-grandchild in a 2010 accident.

NBC News' Tracy Connor and Reuters contributed to this report.


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