PRETORIA, South Africa March 14, 2014 -- The former police officer who was initially in charge of the Oscar Pistorius murder case told the court today how his officers mishandled evidence and that he even searched his own officers when one of Pistorius' expensive watches disappeared.
The trial also saw photos today of Pistorius taken by police after his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot to death on Valentine's Day 2013. In the photos, Pistorius is shirtless, wearing long gray athletic shorts and his prosthetics with ankle length gray socks. One side of his shorts is soaked with blood and there is blood smeared on his body.
Schoombie Van Rensburg, who was a colonel in the police force last year, told the court he was the first official to arrive at Pistorius' house after the paralympian known as Blade Runner killed Steenkamp.
He testified that while collecting evidence in the bathroom, where Pistorius fired four shots through a locked bathroom door, he heard a gun being cocked behind him. When he turned to look, he saw an officer was handling Pistorius' weapon with his bare hands.
"So I asked him what are you doing? He looked and saw he was not wearing gloves and said 'Sorry,' before putting the magazine back and taking his gloves out from his pocket," Van Rensburg said.
Van Rensburg also told the court that one of Pistorius' eight expensive wrist watches disappeared from the scene. The watches were kept in a box in the athlete's bedroom on top of a speaker. A photo of the box, shown in court, showed blood smears on the mirror inside the lid. It also shows eight watches.
"I was very concerned about those watches because they are a temptation... One of the forensic team members mentioned that one of the watches, the green and black one, was worth between R50,000 and R100,000 (about $4,600 to $9,282)," the colonel said.
Pistorius' sister Aimee asked permission to get some clothes from the main bedroom and took one of the watches, but when they got ready to leave a warrant officer told Van Rensburg a second watch was missing.
"We body searched everyone. We searched the bags, we searched the whole house. We even searched the vehicles of all the forensic experts. We could not find it," he said.
Van Rensburg subsequently opened a theft docket which is still being investigated. The watch was never found.
"I was furious and the next morning I implemented access control," he said.
During cross examination, Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux asked Van Rensburg about a second watch that he said also vanished during that first day of investigation, but the ex-cop said he was not aware of second watch disappearing.
Pistorius' defense lawyer Barry Roux used several other police official's statements to question whether Van Rensburg was indeed the first officer on the scene. He also accused the former police commander of tailoring his evidence to such an extent that the former investigating officer, Hilton Botha, would not have to be called as a witness.
Botha resigned last year after it came to light that he had been charged with murder. But it was his embarrassing admission that Botha was not wearing the required foot covers and might have contaminated the crime scene which Roux undoubtedly wants to explore further.
The prosecutor, when asked if Botha will be called to the stand, said he is still undecided on that.
Pistorius has claimed he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder. If convicted of murder he could face at least 25 years in prison.