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Oscar Pistorius trial: 'He was broken, he was screaming and crying, he was praying' - witness tells court

By Adam Withnall

A witness at the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has described how he arrived at the athlete's home to find him "broken" and “screaming” as he carried his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's body down the stairs.

John Stander, a neighbour and friend who lived in the same gated community in Pretoria, was the first person Pistorius called after the shooting on 14 February 2013.

Speaking at the trial, which resumed today after a two-week break for Easter, Mr Stander said the athlete phoned him at 3.18am and said: “Please, please come to my house. I shot Reeva, I thought she was an intruder. Please, please come quick.”

Mr Stander went over with his daughter and found Pistorius “coming down the stairs with Reeva in his arms”.

“He was broken. He was screaming, he was crying, he was praying,” Mr Stander said.

The witness, the fourth called by the defence team, implied that he believed Pistorius's actions showed that the shooting was a mistake.

“I saw the truth that morning and I feel it”, he said.

“He was desperate to save her [and] prayed to God.”

Pistorius's trial for murder is set to enter a critical phase after he faced a difficult cross-examination in the face of rigorous prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Mr Nel has accused Pistorius of “lying” when his defence appeared to waver from self-defence to involuntary action to simply discharging his gun by accident.

The trial so far has been marked by Pistorius repeatedly breaking down in anguish and throwing up in court, prompting claims in South African media that he has received coaching for his performance - accusations his family has strongly denied.

The 27-year-old athlete doesn't dispute that he shot Ms Steenkamp, 29, through a toilet door. He claims he fired four times in quick succession without thinking and while terrified, believing that an intruder had climbed up a ladder and through a bathroom window of his Pretoria villa in the early hours of 14 February 2013 and was about to come out of the cubicle and attack him.

The State says that the couple had been having a heated argument and that Pistorius shot his girlfriend after she fled into the bathroom. Witnesses called by the prosecution have said they heard shouting before apparent gunshots.

South Africa does not have trial by jury. meaning Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide Pistorius' fate with the help of two assessors.

Legal experts have said that despite the athlete's shaky early testimony, he should be acquitted if his defence team can show his story of a tragic mistake is a reasonable explanation.

Before the Easter recess, the defence lawyers had only presented three of up to 17 witnesses they say they may ask to testify. At the outset of the defense's case, lawyer Barry Roux said Pistorius' actions on Valentine's Day last year centered on his “disability” and “vulnerability” and Pistorius' team will likely seek to rebuild the overall argument that his actions were guided by fear and not anger in a country with a high rate of violent home invasions.

Source: Independent

Further reading

Oscar Pistorius trial: The cricket bat, the door, the jeans and the blood - and how the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up

Reeva Steenkamp 'wanted to leave' Oscar Pistorius' house before she was shot dead, murder trial told

Oscar Pistorius cries as prosecutor calls testimony 'far-fetched and improbable' 

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