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Oscar Pistorius Trial Day 9: Photographic tour provides first glimpse inside Blade Runner's home

Pistorius gets sick in court after seeing graphic picture of girlfriend's body

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Pistorius gets sick in court after seeing graphic picture of girlfriend's body

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PRETORIA, South Africa – The photographs begin in Oscar Pistorius' foyer, a wide shot, showing off its double-volume ceiling and staircase landing, and a raw wood sculpture mounted on a metal frame. Around the corner, a cluster of cream leather armchairs, arranged casually around an Nguni cattle skin rug, an ottoman coffee table, and an unvarnished wine rack with bottles of red. Then the photographer zooms in, to the rust red dots on the upholstery.

The blood spots are tiny, but they're everywhere: on the armchairs, on the mottled stone tiles, dotted around the entrance hall and up the stairs. They continue, up onto the whitewashed wall and onto the brushed metal balustrade, where they become a smear in front of the star athlete's trophies, out of focus in the background. There's a view of the spattered white wall from the first floor landing, a series of bland pastoral scenes framed in dark wood.

It is the first time the court has been offered a glimpse of the Paralympian's home, beyond the bathroom where he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

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Oscar Pistorius reacts as he sits in the dock during court proceedings. (REUTERS)

Col. Giliam Schoombie van Rensburg was one of the first police officers to arrive at the scene, he testified Thursday, arriving there after having responded to an armed robbery elsewhere.

Van Rensburg says he found Steenkamp's body covered in towels and black plastic bags in Pistorius' entrance hall, while the Paralympian paced in the kitchen, refusing to tell him what happened.

Carice Stander, the daughter of the estate manager who Pistorius called, was present, and had to explain the situation to the police, he said.

The prosecution in the case against Pistorius spent most of the afternoon not asking questions but scrolling through photograph after photograph, laying the foundation for Friday's testimony when they will presumably attempt to discredit Pistorius' account of what happened on Valentine's Day morning last year.

The photographic tour captures the trail followed by van Rensburg and detective Hilton Botha in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013, the colonel explained on the stand Thursday as the trial of Pistorius entered its ninth day.

Halted in time by a camera-wielding forensics officer, the tour of the Blade Runner's home continues down the passage towards the main bedroom, past a linen cupboard with its door ajar, a blue terrycloth on the tiles.

The "presumed blood stain spatter" trail continues on the bare wall and on the nougat-colored floor through the upstairs sitting room, past a flat-screen television and cappuccino suede lounge set, magazines and satellite television remote tidily stacked on the ottoman. There's a glimpse of the photographer, a voyeur with enormous camera flash, in the full-length mirror.

"Is everything as you found it?" prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked repeatedly asked van Rensburg.

"Yes, yes," van Rensburg confirmed.

The journey continues, following the tiny red drops, slowly, inexorably, towards Pistorius' bedroom doors. There's a close-up of a perfect round hole and scrapes in the wood of the bedroom door, next to a matte-black air rifle leaning next to a blue-metal baseball bat.

The four-story glass display cabinet of dozens of sunglasses stares into the master suite, at the white sheet on the bed and the two ceramic mugs with dregs dried on the bedside tables. The blood smear on Pistorius' glass topped watch display brings us in into the main bedroom, the grey bedspread tossed on the carpet next to trousers, inside out, and a metal fan, plugged into an extension cord next to an iPad on the floor. Behind the twist of wires, the sliding doors to a balcony stand open, the putty-colored double-layered curtains agape.

The camera finds a magazine full of bullets and a little Velcro pouch, laid out for its lens on the bed sheet.

The computer mouse on the courtroom screen clicks rapidly through a series of close-ups: foil packets in a bedside drawer, a plastic packet of syringes and homeopathic remedies for fatigue and testosterone-boosting, beneath the widescreen TV. Another fan sits unplugged in the corner.

Towards the bathroom there's a wide chocolate armchair, white rubber flip-flops next to the bed and a black gym bag. There's a close-up of a black bra topping its contents.

On the bedside table: a half-used tube of muscle-relief ointment obscuring the windsurfer on the cover of a glossy magazine, an air-conditioning remote and a black gun holster.

Some are details that speak to Pistorius' account of early Valentine's morning: his sore shoulder, his trip to the balcony to collect fans on a warm evening. But so too, there will be questions raised about other elements: curtains wide enough to allow in light, the damage to his bedroom door, the gun holster and which side of the bed it should be on.

The photographic tour continues into the walk-in wardrobe with its dark doors where the cartridge casings start appearing – the first on the carpet near the bathroom entrance. Then the camera turns right.

From there, the scene becomes familiar: it is the blood-spattered bathroom, the floor scattered with wooden door splinters, bunched up blood-soaked towels, more cartridge casings on the stone. A red patent plastic vanity bag perches on the edge of the corner bathtub.

The camera turns again, towards an enormous blood smear on the wall tiles by the double sinks, surreal next to the line of toiletries and two toothbrushes neatly placed between the two basins.

The spatter becomes a puddle on the floor, and there is the cricket bat, its tip red with blood. In front of the glass shower door, a 9mm pistol lies on a twisted smoke-grey bathmat, an iPhone and its case peeking out from beneath the towels.

The safety was removed, and "as we found it, it was ready to fire," said van Rensburg, staring at the photograph. He says police eventually found two iPhones in the bathroom.

A sliding frosted-glass window – the one Pistorius feared an intruder had climbed through – is open behind the dark-wood blinds, which are half closed. Next to it, smashed tiles beside the hinges of the toilet door, missing its upper panel, a green plastic key ring dangling from the lock.

The wooden plank is on the floor, next to the blood-stained ceramic toilet, a magazine rack still against the far wall.

The door is now in Courtroom GD of Pretoria's High Court, the object of much debate, as forensic expert Col. Gerhard Vermeulen testified this week about how Pistorius was likely to have been on his stumps when he broke it – a contention that directly contradicts his account of events, and that the defense entirely rejects.

Van Rensburg, the former commander of the police station closest to Pistorius' home, resigned in December 2013, after it emerged that he had kept the athlete's toilet door – a crucial piece of evidence – in his office for a week instead of in secure storage.

During van Rensburg's testimony, the numerous television screens in the courtroom flickered to life, a pictorial depiction of his words as he explained the blood trail to the single judge who will decide Pistorius' fate.

The only monitor left blank was the one unplugged, directly in front of the murder-accused, after an earlier incident caused him to vomit in the dock and sob uncontrollably.

On two occasions, as the police officer scrolling through photographic exhibits searched for the correct picture, graphic photographs of Steenkamp's corpse flickered past. At first it was her body, later a series of close-ups of her face and severe head wound. There were gasps from the public gallery as the images scrolled past.

Pistorius retched and heaved, his sister Aimee clambering into the dock during an adjournment to wipe his black necktie clean.

The police officer responsible for the lapse was replaced after the lunch recess. Court officials say he will testify as a state witness and needed time to prepare.

Judge Thokozile Masipa has previously tried to restrict the distribution of graphic material pertaining to Steenkamp's injuries, after hearing arguments from both the prosecution and defense who want to preserve her dignity. Photographs of her body have only been shown at length to witnesses, and are not available to the media.

In all, the prosecution spent more than an hour flipping through photographs, prepping for Friday's testimony when they will attempt to present the relevance of it all.

How did the bedroom door get damaged?

Did Pistorius close the curtains behind him after collecting the fan?

These are some of the questions the prosecution may pose when van Rensburg returns to the stand Friday.

Click on the image below for more photos from the Oscar Pistorius trial:

(AP)

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