SYDNEY/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An Australian current affairs television programme aired footage on Sunday of a re-enactment by Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius of the shooting of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
With Pistorius’ murder trial still underway in South Africa, the family lawyers of the accused athlete said the “visual mapping” re-enactment was for trial preparation only and they alleged it had been “obtained illegally” by Australia’s Channel 7, which ran the video on its Sunday Night programme.
“For the family, the airing of this footage constitutes a staggering breach of trust and an invasion of the family’s privacy,” the Pistorius family lawyers, Brian Webber, Ramsay Webber Inc., said in a statement. They said no permission for the disclosure of the material had been given.
Pistorius’ lawyers alleged the usage of the video filmed by a U.S. company specialising in forensic animation, The Evidence Room, which had been engaged by Pistorius’ defence team, also breached a non-disclosure agreement made with the Cleveland, Ohio company.
On Monday, Channel 7 declined to respond to questions from Reuters about how and from whom it had obtained the footage, but said the report was a “significant investigation” by award-winning journalists.
“We would not have run the footage if we thought we had obtained it illegally,” the network said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “The story was run in Australia only and not made available in any other territory.”
The Evidence Room did not reply to requests for comment.
One legal expert in Johannesburg, Professor Stephen Tuson of the Wits School of Law, said the screening of the re-enactment footage could be a breach of sub-judice laws that prohibit the publication outside the courtroom of evidence or material that could influence the outcome of the trial.
“If this was done in preparation for the trial in the context of attorney-client confidentiality, it would be privileged and its publication would be a breach of the sub-judice rule. Its consequences could be a reviewable irregularity,” Tuson said.
Channel 7’s Sunday Night programme showed double-amputee Pistorius, without his prosthetic legs, recreating his movements in the St. Valentine’s Day incident last year.
At his murder trial, which opened in early March, Pistorius has said in his defence that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder in the toilet of his Pretoria home and killed her accidentally.
In the Sunday Night footage of the re-enactment, which Channel 7 said had not been presented in court or in public, he is seen dressed in dark blue shorts and a blue singlet moving forward with his right arm extended as though pointing a gun.
The Channel 7 footage also shows Pistorius demonstrating how he found Steenkamp slumped over the toilet after the shooting. With Pistorius’ sister Aimee taking the place of Steenkamp in the re-enactment, the footage shows him dragging the body from the bathroom and carrying her down the stairs.
In another piece of footage, he is shown sitting on a dining room chair, putting on his prosthetics in 25.61 seconds.
Channel 7 said the re-enactment footage was shot at Pistorius’ uncle’s house, “some months” after the shooting.
The court heard last week that the athlete was not suffering from a mental condition when he shot Steenkamp, meaning he had the ability to distinguish between the rightful or wrongful nature of his actions.
Pistorius’ trial is due to resume on Monday.
Reporting by Jane Wardell in Sydney and Ed Stoddard and Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg; Editing by Paul Tait