By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The final, horrific moments in Reeva Steenkamp’s life came into focus Wednesday at the murder trial of South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, as a ballistics expert offered graphic testimony on how she died.
Ballistics expert Chris Mangena told the court that Steenkamp, Pistorius’ girlfriend, was standing, facing the door, when he shot her for the first time.
The bullet, a Black Talon-style projectile designed to open up and cause maximum tissue damage — with six sharp talons blossoming in a star shape upon impact with flesh — struck her in the hip, shattering the bone and breaking up inside her.
She immediately collapsed backwards into a sitting position on a magazine rack behind her in the toilet off the bathroom, he said. Steenkamp raised her arms above her head in a defensive manner, according to Mangena.
Pistorius kept firing. One shot struck his girlfriend in her arm and exited. A third hit her left hand, which was trying to protect the right hand side of her head, Mangena said. That bullet penetrated her skull. Another bullet hit a wall and ricocheted around the toilet.
After the third bullet struck her head, Steenkamp immediately slumped to the right, Mangena told the court.
“I am of the opinion that after this wound was inflicted in the head she dropped immediately,” he said. “Her head ended up on the toilet seat,” he said. The lower part of her body was still on the magazine rack, he added.
According to Mangena, had Steenkamp collapsed onto the floor instead of into a sitting position on the magazine rack after the first gunshot to the hip, the subsequent shots would not have hit her.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder, contending that he believed Steenkamp was an intruder when he fired his gun. Defense attorney Barry Roux said he would later call his own ballistics expert who would offer a different analysis that would contest Mangena’s version on the order in which the bullets were fired and Steenkamp’s position.