Oscar Pistorius was in the process of buying six guns at the time he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, more than usually allowed under South African law, his murder trial heard Monday.
Gun licenser Sean Rens testified that Pistorius had sound knowledge of gun laws, but also once entered full “combat mode” after mistaking a washing machine for an intruder.
When Steenkamp died on Valentine’s Day last year, the Paralympic champion had recently been invoiced for six guns including a Smith & Wesson 500, described by its manufacturer as the “most powerful production revolver in the world”.
Pistorius had also ordered a Vector .223-calibre rifle, a 38-calibre Smith & Wesson revolver and three shotguns: a Mossberg Maverick, a Winchester and a Carbine gun.
“The transaction was cancelled a month post-incident,” said Rens, manager of a firearms training academy in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg, as the athlete’s trial entered its third week.
South African law allows non-collectors to possess only four firearms.
Pistorius knew the country’s gun laws, says expert.
Rens, whose job involves arranging gun sales, licensing and training, said Pistorius “had a great love and enthusiasm” for firearms and scored high on an examination intended to quiz gun owners on the lawful use of lethal weapons.
Licensing examination records confirm that the 27-year-old Pistorius knew the country’s gun laws well, the court heard.
He answered correctly that he could only shoot at a person if his life was directly threatened.
Asked in the test if he could fire at burglars stealing a television from his house, Pistorius wrote: “No. Life is not in danger.”
Pistorius says he shot dead his 29-year-old girlfriend through a locked toilet door after mistaking her for an intruder.
But the state has drawn on previous gun incidents to depict the athlete as rash and trigger-happy, in support of the charge of premeditated murder.
The sprinter faces three additional non-related charges over firing a gun in a restaurant and from a moving car, and for the illegal possession of ammunition.
Rens met the Paralympic gold medalist in 2012 through a mutual friend. At the time, Pistorius owned a 9 mm pistol and the pair visited a shooting range together around 10 times.
But despite good knowledge of gun laws, Rens said the athlete told him he once drew his gun inside his house at a suspicious noise, which turned out to be the washing machine.
“He went into what we call ‘code red’, or combat mode, in other words to draw his gun and go and clear his house,” Rens testified Monday.
Pistorius tweeted about the incident in November 2012 saying: “Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!”
He later deleted the post.
Following Rens’ testimony, police photographer Bennie van Staden walked the court through pictures he took at the Paralympic gold medallist’s upmarket Pretoria home.
Earlier in the morning Steenkamp’s mother June attended the trial for the first time since its opening day on March 3. She left as the court was shown photos of Pistorius’s bloodstained prostheses.
Van Staden’s meticulous 15 photo albums were detailed after damaging revelations concerning the credibility of the police investigation.
Defence lawyers argue police contaminated the scene after officers last week conceded to moving evidence, handling a gun without gloves and even stealing from Pistorius’s house.
Van Staden said he moved the athlete’s duvet and bloodied towels in his bathroom to look for further evidence, and only after documenting their original position.
Images also showed damage to the bedroom door and a blood splatter on bedsheets and a bedroom wall, suggesting a possible tussle the night Steenkamp died.
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