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Oscar Pistorius trial: Blade Runner set to take the stand

Oscar Pistorius reacts as he listens to evidence by a pathologist in court in Pretoria, South Africa.

Oscar Pistorius reacts as he listens to evidence by a pathologist in court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: AP

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So after the most eagerly-anticipated day in the trial so far, we adjourn for more tomorrow.

Mr Roux has tip-toed his client through his early life, his relationship with his mother, his challenges following the amputation of his lower legs shortly after birth, his sporting career and a number of other issues.

In particular, he detailed an intensely-felt fear of crime, going back to his childhood when his mother kept a gun in a padded case under her pillow.

And somewhat sensationally, he began his testimony with an extremely emotional apology to the family of his victim, girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

He battled through the words but maintains the night she died, when the model and law graduate had gone to bed, "she felt love.”

Pistorius looks drained after two hours of testimony. He will return to the witness stand in the morning.

On the back of that statement, Mr Roux asks Judge Masipa if the court might adjourn before he moves onto a new topic, and so we can start the day afresh tomorrow.

Judge Masipa asks Mr Nel on his view, and he says as long as it's not a daily occurrence he won't object.

The court has now adjourned to 9.30am Tuesday.

As soon as judge leaves, Pistorius sits down, puts his head in his hands.

His brother Carl goes over and wraps his arms around him. He is also being comforted by sister Aimee, and other family members.

He says he feels exhausted at the moment, and did not sleep last night: "lot of things going through my mind."

"The weight of this is extremely overbearing. It's alot to think about," says the runner.

Pistorius now detailing his religion: Anglican, and has been a devout Christian for many years.

His mother Sheila had been very involved in the church, singing in the choir.

His mother told him 'grow up knowing that God is our refuge.' When his mother died, he struggled with his faith.

Pistorius is becoming emotional again, saying Reeva was also very religious and prayed for him; says the couple prayed together.

"My God is my God of refuge," he tells the court, saying he has never needed his faith more than this past year.

He is asked about the broken window downstairs on his house, as shown in police photos during the state's case.

He said it broken by a cricket ball he threw for one of his dogs.

Pistorius says he has grown up with dogs, and had owned them before. He wanted them in part as guard dogs.

However, he said they are not aggressive at all. They licked police officers when they took crime scene photographs.

In December 2012, Pistorius says he was looking at properties to buy in Johannesburg, less than an hour's drive away. This was in part because it was where Ms Steenkamp lived: "I was bowled over by how much I felt for her."

In the meantime, he wanted to fix up a few things on his Pretoria home before he sold it.


Mr Roux is letting Pistorius talk and talk. He's giving plenty of detail about his brushes with crime.

Says on February 13 2013, hours before he shot and killed Ms Steenkamp, he was on the phone to his cousin warning him not to drive his new Golf GTi from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria because of hijack risk.

Pistorius says he made his base in Pretoria, choosing the Silver Woods Estate to buy a home in 2007.

"I chose that estate because it was further out of the city, it wasn't in the midst of everything," he said.

However, there was "constant development" on the estate and during that time "crimes were committed".

He moved in officially in 2008.

Now he is talking about 2012 in December when he was assaulted at a party after receiving threats.

The proseuction is likely to challenge many of these incidents as being a fabrication.

A police witness told the court Pistorius a search of the database revealed he has never reported being a victim of crime.

"I was returning from an interview, a made way for a car. When it passed me it slowed down, then I saw the muzzle flash," he says.

"Many people know where I live," he says, referring to his fame and public profile.

Pistorius explains he experienced many house break-ins when growing up, family members have been assaulted and car-jacked.

"One of my father's homes was ransacked. One of the burglars had cut his hand and wiped blood on the wall."

He claims his home was broken into in 2005, while he was in Manchester for the paralympic world cup. When he came back, a week and a half later, his TV had been stolen, and a laptop, and his car roof was cut.

Also claims he has been followed home late at night, and shot at on the highway.

With regard to drugs, he says he smoked marijuana after his mother died, as a teen, but nothing since. Only takes substances that are safe.

We now move onto his fears of crime - which, as mentioned earlier, will be a focal point of the defence case.

"Everyone in South Africa has been exposed to crime at some point," he said.

Pistorius says he gets "shy" about his prosthetic legs, and "embarrassed about them when I don't have them on."

Moving to a new topic, Mr Roux starts: "Mr Pistorius, let's talk about alcohol and drugs. Do you drink"

Pistorius says he does, but not when he's training which is for a substantial part of the year. And not to excess.

On the day of the boating accident, he had only consumed one drink but was not drunk. He drinks when away with family and friends around Christmas and New Year.

Pistorius is talking about the difficulties associated with competing away from home. He says it makes it hard on relationships with loved ones.

"Track and field athletes compete for five months a year away from home," he said.

Finding time to speak to family can be "difficult".

Pistorius is reminded he is still under oath, and the questioning resumes.

We're almost ready to resume here at the Pretoria HIgh Court.

Pistorius sitting hands clasped on his lap, staring forward, awaiting Judge Masipa.

Here is a more fulsome version of the apology given by Pistorius at the start of his testimony:

"I'd like to apologize and say that there's not a moment and there hasn't been a moment since, since this tragedy happened, that I haven't thought about your family.

"I wake up every morning and you're the first people I think of, the first people I pray for.

"I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I've caused you and your family.

"I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.

"I've tried to put my words on paper many, many times to write to you, but no words would ever suffice."

With that, we take the luncheon adjournment.

Pistorius family are all very red-eyed, hugging each other. It's been an emotional morning for them.

Ms Steenkamp leaves via a side-door. She has been having lunch inside the building, to avoid cameras.

Mr Roux asks what he does with his prosthetic limbs when he is not wearing them.

"I keep them close by me, I usually let them air at night," he says.

Pistorius says he will often leave his trousers on them, so that they can be easily put back on.

When training, he will put them one on top of the other, near his bag. He says they are essentially an extension of his body, so doesn't like to be without them.

Pistoris is now sitting calmly, giving a very long-winded explanation about the boating accident, in which most of his face was "smashed in".

"When I woke up I was pretty much drowing on the blood from my injury", he says.

Any long-term, emotional impact from the crash, asks Mr Roux?

"Massive impact ... I was just a lot more vigilant about losing my life."

Says reports at the time said he had been drinking, but he had not.

He is now being asked about the 2009 boating incident on the Vaal river, in which he was injured.

Just another point he made about his stumps:

He is now talking about the challenges of his athletic career, which places pressure on relationships and friendships due to him being away a lot.

He also notes that getting "a decent amount of money" can lead to "changed perspectives" in his life.

Pistorius is dressed as he has been every other day, in a black suit, white shirt and black tie.

His is speaking in a soft monotone, and everyone in the packed High Court is straining to hear.

Ms Steenkamp's mother June is poker-faced, watching his testimony.

Now Pistorius' barrister, Mr Roux, asks Pistorius about his charitable work. Defence clearly trying to highlight different aspects of his character to those presented by prosecutors, who painted a picture of a gun-obsessed, fast car-loving, blase young man.

Says he has been in discussions with his surgeon to "redo" his left stump. When they amputated his lower legs, they put his heel pad on the stump. He wants to have an operation to remove heel pad on left side, as it has rotated and grown.

Mr Roux now asks about his mobility on his stumps.

He says he doesn't have very good balance on them, and rarely does anything without prosthetic legs.

Says he cannot stand still on them. "I don't have balance on my stumps."

Pistorius is speaking in a monotone as he details his athletic career, his challenges, adversities and the ongoing issues surrounding his disability and the prosthetic blades he uses. Says his stumps can become irritated, bleed and international travel can cause blood clots.

This is clearly setting the tone for his case - he is vulnerable.

In 2009 and 2010 ran in able bodied races around the world.

"In 2012 I represented SA in the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

He missed the 2008 Olympics because of a court case over whether his prosthetic legs gave him advantage.

Describes it as a "difficult year", missing qualification by a quarter of a second.

"It was a devastating time for me," he says.

Back to his running career.

When do you say you really started to excel? He says 2009.

He competed in Athens Paralympics, South African able-bodied athletic championships in 2005, in 2006 went to world championships for those with disabilities. Won multiple golds.


"Everything we learnt in life, we learnt from her," he says, fighting back tears.

By the time he and his siblings found out she was sick, she was already in a coma.

"It was really unexpected. I was at boarding school. She'd just got married. My brother and I didn't know she was sick. We weren't informed..."

Pistorius becomes tearful again as he talks about the lead-up to his mother's death.

"We would sit by her, and then she got better, so we went back to school," he says.

Pistorius tells the court he went to boarding school, and played rugby and waterpolo, and at a later point moved to athletics.

He was sustained a knee injury during a rugby game, and as part of his rehabilitation he did some fitness work running and ultimately was asked to compete in athletics.

Pistorius said: "I was seen as one of the boys. I was never much of an academic. I tried to do my best."

Given his father wasn't around from a young age, Pistorius says his family always had safety concerns in South Africa.

His mother kept a firearm to protect her family.

This will be crucial evidence if Pistorius hopes to avoid jail - if he can establish genuine fear for safety that night, judge may not impose jail term even on "culpable homicide" conviction.

Pistorius says his family "believed in standing up for yourself and standing up for what you believe in".

He says he decided to try and overcome his physical limitations by trialling a number of sports and testing himself.


The Pistorius family area of the court is awash with tears, as the athlete speaks about his mother Sheila and his upbringing.

Says his mother "made me feel equal to the rest of the kids. She didn't see my disability as something that should hold me back."

What was your mother's approach to your disability?

"My mother was very supportive," he says fondly, looking towards his family.

Says mother Sheila never wanted him to feel any differen to his brother.

Pistorius is asked to explain why his legs were amputated, but jumps to explaining the effect of that.

"I've got prosthetic legs that help me to overcome those disabilities, those difficulties," he said.

"I have very limited mobility (without prosthetic legs)."

"I was born with a missing fibula," he explains.

"I was missing them on both legs ... they thought that the best thing would be to amputate them below the knee joint."

Pistorius tells the court he is very close with his siblings, Aimee and Carl. His parents separated when he was young, mother died when he was 15 years old.

He is still very softly spoken, although has stopped crying.

Having given an extraordinary, tearful performance to open his evidence, he sits down. His voice is still barely audible, especially over the tapping of computers by the dozens of journalists reporting on the case.

June Steenkamp is said to have remained stony-faced through Pistorius' apology.

Pistorius: "I'm scared to sleep. I have terrible nightmares about things that happened that night. I smell the blood and wake up terrified."

He says he often calls his sister in middle of night, as he wakes up afraid.

"I don't want to handle firearm ever again," he says.


Pistorius says he's heavily medicated, has been since the incident.

"I wake up, I smell blood... I wake up, I am terrified."

Pistorius was addressing June Steenkamp as he spoke, looking around the court and looking around the public gallery.

He wants to start his evidence by giving an apology. He is fighting hard not to cry, lip wavering.

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to ... Reeva's family,"

"Those of you who knew her that are here today. Family."

"I would like to apologise and say there hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about her family ... I wake up every morning and you're the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can't imagine...

"I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt love."

"I have tried to put my words on paper many times since, but no words suffice."

Pistorius tells the court he will stand. He is clutching a tissue and his solicitor takes him pillow, in case he wants to sit down.

He walks steadily to the dock. He speaks very softly as he is administerd the oath.

Mr Roux: "May it please the court, I call Mr Pistorius"

He maintains Ms Steenkamp's body was "flexed" at the time she was struck initially, and had a "virtual collapse" of her body after the hip wound.

"The distance between the hip wound and the arm is "not that great".

"The final shot was the head wound," he said.

Interesting that defence has moved away from "double tap" theory. Wonder why ...

Prof Botha being asked again about speed of bullets, and turns into a firearms expert as he says that unless someone is "very skilled" the "firearm moves around." 

The bullet holes are approximately 11cm apart on the door, which remains in the court room as an exhibit.


Mr Roux concludes, but Mr Nel says he is stunned to hear him tell the court it is NOT the defence case that there was a "double tap".

He requests permission to ask more questions, which the judge agrees to.


Prof Botha says it's likely Ms Steenkamp was "panic stricken" and there is a "lapse of a couple of seconds before that person is capable of reacting."

In his questions, Mr Roux clarifies that while he asked Captain Mangena about double-tapping, that is not the version from the accused.

He says Pistorius fired shots "in rapid succession".

Mr Nel has now completed cross-examination, and Mr Roux says he has just a couple of things to clarify in reply.

Prof Botha says Ms Steenkamp would have likely taken a couple of seconds to react.

"I don't think she'd have had a chance to scream," she said. "She could have been frozen in fear, I don't know.

Mr Nel attacks him for speculating.

Photo of Reeva's hip-wound still on screen. Black stain surrounds the entry wound.

Mr Nel is switching cleverly between Mr Nice-Guy, and aggressor.

After one sharp response to why he did not consider height of holes in door compared with injuries, he says innocently: "I'm just testing ur evidence."

Botha responds icily: "It's not my job to test which bullet hole correlates with which injury."

Prof Botha is adamant he cannot be certain about which wound was caused by which bullet through which hole. That's not his speciality.

He admits he does know that Pistorius claims he fired with a "double tap", claiming they were fired in quick succession. This is a key part of defence case - no time for Ms Steenkamp to scream, discrediting neighbours who say they heard her shouts.

Horrifying image of Ms Steenkamp's bloody head flashed up in court, and we are now looking at a close-up image of the bullet wound to her hip. Prof Botha is being asked to comment.

June Steenkamp drops her head and Pistorius remains head bowed, hands over ears.

Mr Nel moves back to the "gastric emptying" evidence. He asks if he is aware of anything why Ms Steenkamp would have been different to the "norm", being that the food would have been digested and out of her stomach within four to six hours.

Mr Nel: So you would expect normal gastric emptying?

Prof Botha: Yes.

He is sticking to his guns that the wound to Ms Steenkamp's back were caused by the magazine rack - even after it's pointed out that the model and law student was wearing a t-shirt.

Mr Nel continuing with his aggressive questioning of Prof Botha.

The witness gets terribly cross when Mr Nel suggests he has tailored his evidence to support the defence's version of events. Experts are supposed to be unbiased, give independent evidence, regardless of who engages them.

"I am not here to win the case or lose the case, I'm here to assist the court," he says.

And we're back underway, with the nasty bruise-like wound found on Ms Steenkamp's back on the screen, among others.

Wonder if Mr Nel is showing these photos in part to rattle Oscar Pistorius, who will give evidence next. He is once again doubled over with hands covering eyes.


Lawyers gradually filing back into court after the adjournment. Prof Botha has been sitting quietly in the dock through the adjournment, looking a bit like a chastened child. That said, he is also a professional and done this plenty of times. He knows the game. This is how it works.


A couple of key concessions made by the witness under cross-examination, including that the first bullet which struck Ms Steenkamp would have likely forced her backward, onto the magazine rack.

Mr Nel also got Prof Botha to admit "it is likely" that if, as he testified earlier, the wounds to her back were caused by the magazine rack, the hair on her skin would have been scraped off. The close-up images shown in court reveal the fine hairs on her skin are still there.

The state will argue that is consistent with their expert Captain Mangena's evidence that the back wounds were caused by a bullet ricocheting.

Pistorius' psychologist cradled his head in her hands, kissing top of his head. She has moved away now, leaving just the three siblings clutching each other.

Court takes an early morning tea, to give prosecutor Nel a chance to consult his own expert witness about other final questions for Prof Botha.

As Judge Masipa leaves the bench, Pistorius' sister Aimee and brother Carl rush to his side. He is audibly crying, howling even, as they hug him and comfort him.

Mrs Steenkamp is believed to have poor eyesight, and is not wearing glasses in court, so hopefully she doesn't actually see these images.

Court shown one of marks to Reeva's skin on her back, which resembles a burn. State contends this is from the bullet that missed her, and struck the wall then ricocheted into her body.

This would be horrifying for any mother.

Pistorius has once again hunched over, in part to avoid the massive screen in front of the dock which also carries the image.


In showing the pictures, Mr Nel is able to contradict Prof Botha's earlier assertion that there was no blood splatter on the wall.

There clearly is.

This is designed to discredit the witness, and reaffirm the state's version.

Court is now being shown graphic images from the crime scene, showing hair and blood splatter on the wall behind the toilet.

Pistorius is hunched over again. June Steenkamp is in court for this two, remains composed.

Mr Nel asking Botha to look at the door, challenging his evidence and hoping he will ultimately agree with state expert Captain Mangena.

Mr Nel: "If the first shot hit her in the hip, where would she go?"

Prof Botha: "She’d fall back."

That is the first part of the state's version agreed with...

Prof Botha is unable to offer an opinion on whether digestion stops after death.

Mr Nel suggests that he is therefore agreeing with his expert, Prof Saayman. He says no.

Moving onto Ms Steenkamp's wounds, the court hears Professor Botha’s findings were made without considering the the door.

"I'm not a ballistician, I'm a pathologist. I can't in all honesty say that A was the first shot, B the second shot, I certainly can't," he says.

Mr Nel flabbergasted how he could testify without considering the evidence, as it could have been made available to him.

"All I can say is that the level of the wound ... suggests she was in a standing position," he says, taking another sip of water. Bottle nearly empty.

Pistorius has sat upright again, watching Mr Nel's cross-examination of the defence's first witness. He knows this will soon be him.

If he wasn't feeling unwell before, he will be now!

Mr Nel is getting the witness cranky - Prof Botha says he "doesn't have to agree with anyone; I have an open mind" when asked about other experts in the field.


Interesting change of tone from Mr Nel. He is renowned for his cross-examination, but so far we have only seen a softly spoken and at times laborious prosecutor as he led evidence from his own witnesses. By contrast, Mr Roux has been an aggressive questioner. Now, things have changed. Mr Roux was positively genteel as he led the evidence from Prof Botha; Mr Nel now appears to be on the front foot.

Mr Roux has completed leading Professor Botha's evidence in chief ... over to chief prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, for cross-examination.

Pistorius has begun to sob and retch in the dock during pathologist's testimony.

Professor Botha agrees that the head wound would have rendered her unconscious immediately. He says if he is wrong and the first shot struck her head, then she would have made no sound.

"If the shots were fired in rapid sequence, these shots could have easily been discharged in four seconds," he said.

"I think it's highly unlikely ... she would have made any sound."

Professor Botha says the wound to Steenkamp's arm would have been akin to amputation. Defence expert is arguing all four bullets hit her; State's expert said she was struck by only three bullets, one of those causing injury to both head and hand.

Pistorius is hunched over in the dock; his uncle Arnold Pistorius just passed him some tissues.

He says while he's "not 100 percent sure" he believes the third shot was the one which injured Ms Steenkamp's left hand and struck the wall.

"I think she then fell down, fell against the magazine rack ... it was in this position ... she incurred the last shot to the right side of her head."

So interestingly, the defence expert agrees the last shot was the one that hit Reeva Steenkamp's skull.

This leaves it open for the judge to find Ms Steenkamp had time to scream before final, immediately fatal shot. Although defence to present evidence to the alternative, no doubt...

He says while he's "not 100 percent sure" he believes the third shot was the one which injured the left hand and struck the wall.

"I think she then fell down, fell against the magazine rack ... it was in this position ... she incurred the last shot to the right side of her head."

So interestingly, the defence expert agrees the last shot was the one that hit Reeva Steenkamp's skull.

This leaves it open for the judge to find Ms Steenkamp had time to scream before final, immediately fatal shot.

Now Professor Botha has moved onto the gunshot wounds sustained by Ms Steenkamp when Pistorius opened fire.

He agrees with state's expert Captain Mangena that the first shot pierced her right hip bone, and she was standing reasonably close to the door at the time.

He says the second shot struck her right arm. Captain Mangena said second shot missed Steenkamp, piercing the wall behind her.


Professor Botha said the upshot was the food was consumed "fairly recently" before death, but best understanding would be to interview next of kin to the deceased to find out when she last ate. A timely prelude to Pistorius' evidence...

Ultimately he says while the meal could have been consumed a couple of hours before Ms Steenkamp's death, as Prof Saayman testified, but says it could also have been "considerably longer".


The previous post relates to the cult-like status that Pistorius' barrister, Barry Roux, has gained since the trial began. His questioning style of "I put it to you..." as a way to begin an examination has been widely repeated. It's become something of a refrain for many around the country. It was even the subject of a "Barry Roux Rap" spoof-song created by a local radio station.

As a reminder, the state's pathologist also conceded the science was not exact when it came to food digestion as it relates to time of death. It was Gert Saayman's "best estimate" that the food in Ms Steenkamp's stomach was consumed no more than two hours before her death.

Professor Botha is going through a variety of previous cases, and highlighting warnings relating to using "guidelines" as exact science.

As a reminder, the state's pathologist also conceded the science was not exact when it came to food digestion as it relates to time of death. It was his "best estimate" that the food in Ms Steenkamp's stomach was consumed no more than two hours before her death.

Professor Botha is going through a variety of previous cases, and highlighting warnings relating to using "guidelines" as exact science.

Professor Botha says while there are "general trends" regarding food digestion, to extrapolate those trends would lead to speculation.

"One cannot be adamant about something that's actually in the realms of speculation," he says.

Professor Botha is being asked about the concept of "gastric emptying" -- this relates to the food in Ms Steenkamp's stomach at time of death.

He says it's an inexact science, and text books give varying times that food is taken to digest.

"All books warn of the dangers (of specifying times)," he said.

Prof Botha says he has "no idea" how many cases he has worked in... estimates "thousands".

He says he has probably conducted 25,000 post mortems during his career, and supervised many more.


Professor Botha is going through his CV ... regarded as one of the best in the country. Very experienced. Former chief pathologist of the Free State province in South Africa.

Mr Roux says the pathologist will be the only witness called "out of turn" - which means Pistorius will be next.

Pistorius' counsel Barry Roux SC has outlined what evidence the defence intends to call - it includes ballistics evidence, evidence of sound and evidence relating to the "vulnerability" of his client. Says there will be 14 to 17 witnesses in the defence case.

As predicted, first witness is pathologist Jan Botha.

Just two minutes behind schedule at 9.32am in Pretoria, South Africa, Justice Thokozile Masipa walks onto the bench. We're ready to go.

Oscar Pistorius is sitting head down in the dock, after the arrival of his family in court. His sister Amy, uncle Arnold and others all embraced him, and his legal team. All look emotional.

Foreign correspondents covering the case have also used the world's camera to protest the unlawful detention of Australian-born journalist Peter Greste and two colleagues in Egypt.

Ms Steenkamp's mother June arrived shortly before 9am, entering via a side door to avoid the cameras.

Earlier, Oscar Pistorius walked the 400 metres from his barrister's chambers flanked by his cousins. His legal team had left 20 minutes beforehand.

His barrister, Barry Roux SC, is set to open the defence case by calling pathologist Jan Botha. The former chief pathologist is likely to give contrary testimony to the pathologist called by the state, Gert Saayman, on a number of issues, including the likelihood or otherwise that Ms Steenkamp screamed after being shot the first time. Mr Saayman, who performed the autopsy on Ms Steenkamp, also testified that based on the contents of her stomach at the time of death, she must have consumed a meal about two hours before she was shot and killed. This appears contrary to the athlete's version, which is that the pair went to bed at about 10pm.

After the false start of last Friday, we are all set back in the Pretoria High Court for the resumption of Oscar Pistorius' murder trial.
The Paralympic champion is accused of murdering his model and law graduate girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day, 2013, by shooting four times through the closed toilet door in his Pretoria home.