Reeva to Pistorius: ‘I’m scared of you’
Following his initial sentencing in 2014, Oscar Pistorius, double-amputee and former Olympic sprinter convicted in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, saw his sentence more than doubled in 2017. If not for that, and under the initial sentence, Pistorius could have been released on parole in mid-2019. Now, the earliest he will be eligible for parole is 2023.
Looking back at this case from 2014, we can see the significance of mobile forensics and digital evidence in building a complete picture of the fateful crime on Valentine’s Day 2013.
In cases of shooting deaths, physical evidence such as ballistics, bullet trajectory, blood spatter patterns etc. can often help investigators understand what happened and who did what, which can be enough to convict a suspect. But in cases like this one, in which Pistorius admitted shooting the victim, there is no need to prove that he was responsible for her death. Instead, the question becomes whether the shooting was in self-defense, an accident, a crime of passion or a premeditated action. And digital evidence of communications between the suspect and victim can be absolutely critical in reaching a trial verdict.
Smartphone evidence a critical key in Pistorius case
On Valentine’s Day 2013, the blade runner became “the blade gunner” (as the media called him), and in 2014 he was convicted of manslaughter. Amongst the evidence revealed during Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa were encrypted WhatsApp messages extracted from mobile phones using XRY software from MSAB.
Captain Francois Moller of the South African Police testified at the high court in Pretoria that he was able to access some 35,000 pages worth of messages between the couple. The evidence was extracted and shown to the court.
Among the messages were ones that had been deleted, but that XRY was able to recover.
“I’m scared of u sometimes and how u snap at me and of how u will react to me,” Reeva had texted Pistorius, in a message read out in court by Captain Moller.
On another occasion, texts between the couple suggested that Pistorius asked Reeva to keep quiet over an incident in January 2013 where he allegedly fired a gun in a restaurant – another charge he denied.
“Angel please don’t say a thing to any one… I can’t afford for that to come out,” he wrote.
Though the couple called each other “Boo, Baby or my angel,” some of the text messages revealed in court offer a disconcerting look at a volatile relationship.
The messages went on to highlight Pistorius’ insecurity, irascibility and the resulting problems in their relationship, with Steenkamp labeling it a ‘double standard relationship. ‘The prosecution argued in court that the messages between Pistorius and Reeva were evidence of an emotionally abusive relationship.
On 21 October 2014, Pistorius received a prison sentence of a maximum of five years for culpable homicide and a concurrent three-year suspended sentence for a separate reckless endangerment conviction.
In December 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the culpable homicide verdict and found Pistorius guilty of murder. Pistorius will be eligible for parole in 2023.
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