Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete vomits as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp autopsy

Oscar Pistorius, puts his hand to his head while listening to cross questioning
Oscar Pistorius, puts his hand to his head while listening to cross questioning

Oscar Pistorius bent over in the dock and retched into a bucket as his murder trial heard graphic evidence from the pathologist who performed the post mortem on his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that Professor Gert Saayman’s evidence should not be broadcast or tweeted, in accordance with the pathologist’s own wishes, as the athlete's murder trial entered its second week in Pretoria.

Pistorius blocked both his ears with his thumbs and sobbed into a white handkerchief as Professor Saayman described in some detail the size and shape of the three gunshots that killed Ms Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

He had only been speaking for a matter of minutes when Pistorius's defence counsel Barry Roux requested court be adjourned because: "Mr Pistorius has been sick".

Both sets of lawyers had argued for the broadcast of proceedings to be suspended while the court heard what was expected to be "extremely graphic" testimony.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court that Professor Saayman had "ethical concerns" over broadcasting details of the autopsy. Mr Nel said reporting restrictions were needed to "respect the decency" of Ms Steenkamp, her family and friends.

Professor Saayman told the court that "the graphic details have the potential to damage the dignity of the deceased", and broadcasting his testimony would "harm the rights of the remaining friends and relatives of the deceased."

"It goes against the good morals of society to make this information available, to unsuspecting members of the public, including children and other vulnerable people," he added.

Dr Saayman’s testimony will still be filmed, and the broadcasters are hopeful that its “benign parts” may be broadcast tonight or tomorrow morning. South African broadcasters fought a lengthy legal battle for the right to broadcast the murder trial.

Earlier, Pieter Baba, a security guard at the gated Silverwoods estate where Pistorius lived, insisted the athlete told him "everything is fine" in the minutes after the shooting of Ms Steenkamp.

Mr Baba said he phoned Pistorius following reports of a shooting in the early hours, and not the other way round, as the athlete's defence team led by Barry Roux had previously suggested.

During his cross-examination, Pistorius' lawyer challenged his version of events showing the court Mr Baba's police statement where he said Pistorius told him he was "OK"- instead of "everything is fine."

Mr Roux suggested he has evidence, including athlete's outgoing call records, security's incoming phone records and police documents, proving Pistorius called security first but could not speak because he was crying.

Mr Baba insisted: "I'm the one who called first."

"His call was first and your call was second," Mr Roux told the court. "'I put proof in front of you that Mr Pistorius called first."

Mr Baba stood by his testimony arguing that, if Pistorius had called him first, he "would have known something was wrong". Instead, he claims he fainted as a result of the "shock" when he arrived at Pistorius' house and saw the athlete carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

On Friday, Pistorius' former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, painted a picture of a man who "always" carried a gun with him, was often angry and unfaithful. His lawyer argued the pair were no longer a couple when Pistorius started seeing Ms Steenkamp and suggested Ms Taylor was unfaithful too.

She told the court the South African star was worried about intruders breaking into his house, but, crucially, he would usually wake her up whenever he heard suspicious noises.

Ms Taylor also recounted an incident where  Pistorius allegedly fired at a traffic light after he and a friend, Darren Fresco, the same man who passed him a gun that discharged under a table a restaurant last year, were stopped for speeding, and became very angry with a police officer.

Last week, Pistorius pleaded not guilty of murdering Ms Steenkamp, claiming he shot her in a case of mistaken identity thinking she was an intruder.

The model and law graduate was shot three times, being hit in the head, arm and hip from three bullets from a 9mm pistol.

Prosecutors argue he intentionally shot and killed  his girlfriend following a domestic dispute. If convicted of murder he will almost certainly receive a life sentence, with a minimum term of 25 years.

The case continues.

Further reading

Oscar Pistorius trial 'a bizarre safari'

Plea on graphic Pistorius evidence 

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