A top pathologist hired by Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius to testify at his murder trial has dropped out of the case, in one of the biggest signs yet that the athlete’s defence may be doomed.
Agence France Presse reports that Reggie Perumal, who joined the defence team shortly after Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, recently announced that he will not testify in the Pretoria trial that has captivated South African media.
Private pathologists who testify in high-profile murder cases can make more than $US2,000 a day. AFP reported that there are rumours that Perumal decided to forgo that high fee because his findings supported key points in the prosecution’s case, and that he refused to twist his testimony.
Another private forensic pathologist who is familiar with the case told AFP: “An expert forensic pathologist, independent or otherwise, must remember his function is firstly toward the court.” He also noted that if Perumal were to stretch the truth in court, he could end up hurting his credibility.
The key finding of the pathologist hired by the state, Gert Saayman, was that Steenkamp’s stomach contents suggest she ate two hours before her death, AFP reported. That finding contradicts Pistorius’ story that they were fast asleep before he woke up and shot her because he thought she was an intruder, according to AFP.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder, claiming he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door in his house because he believed Steenkamp was an intruder. He says that when he got up to check out a noise he heard in the bathroom, he thought Steenkamp was sleeping in bed next to him.
The prosecution, however, alleges that Pistorius shot Steenkamp because they were arguing. Witnesses have testified at the trial saying they heard a woman screaming before gunshots rang out at Pistorius’ house.
Further harming Pistorius’ case is another expert who testified on the defence’s behalf and ended up contradicting parts of Pistorius’ version of events from that night, The Telegraph reports.
Roger Dixon, a former police forensics chief, said it appeared that Steenkamp was carried rather than pulled out of the bathroom. He also disagreed with Pistorius’ account of where the magazine rack in the bathroom was positioned when Steenkamp was shot.
Dixon’s credibility is also being called into question. He told the court that he hadn’t been following the prosecution’s case earlier in the trial because it’s “better not to be influenced by external factors,” but then reporters found Dixon’s Twitter profile in which he retweeted coverage of the trial, The Telegraph reported.
The trial has been adjourned until May 5.
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