Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius kept a gun next to his bed and carried one with him whenever he could, a former girlfriend testified at his murder trial.
Pistorius fired his weapon through an open car sunroof after an incident in which a policeman handled his firearm, Samantha Taylor said in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, pleaded not guilty on March 3 to planning to shoot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day, last year. He is also defending three separate gun charges.
“He kept it on him all the time,” Taylor said in testimony yesterday, referring to a gun. “He placed his firearm on his bedside table, or next to his legs on the floor.”
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius admitted to shooting Steenkamp three times while she was in his bathroom, believing she was an intruder. He has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February 2013.
Pistorius was irritated when a policeman handled his gun after reprimanding him for leaving it on the car seat and laughed as he later fired through the sunroof, Taylor said. He was a passenger in a car that was stopped by the police for speeding, she said.
Pistorius’s lawyer, Barry Roux, denied the athlete had shot his gun in the car. He also questioned the memory of Johan Stipp, a radiologist who lived near Pistorius in Pretoria, over the events that took him to the accused’s home early on Feb. 14 last year, particularly the timing of gunshots. Stipp said he found Pistorius in tears kneeling and praying next to Steenkamp’s body.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius’s neighbors and staff in the exclusive residential estate to testify about hearing arguments, a woman’s screams and gunshots during the first week of a scheduled three-week trial.
“I heard the boom boom boom,” Stipp said in cross-examination yesterday. “I didn’t hear any screaming after that.”
According to Roux, the screams neighbors heard were those of Pistorius after he realized he had shot Steenkamp through the toilet cubicle door, and that the gunshots they recalled were the noise of the accused breaking down the locked door with a cricket bat. The prosecution says Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp at 3:17 a.m. after an argument, during which she screamed for help.
Roux said he will call an expert to testify that Pistorius’s voice resembles that of a woman when he’s anxious. Taylor testified she had only heard Pistorius scream in anger, and it sounded like a man’s voice.
Presiding Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa will rule on the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
Stipp testified two days ago he found Pistorius crying over the body on the ground floor of the house, trying to revive her. The reaction may have been for “atonement,” he said.
Pieter Baba, a security guard at the Silver Woods Country Estate where Pistorius lived, testified Pistorius had initially said “everything is fine” when he spoke to him on the phone after neighbors had called for help. The athlete then called back and was crying, Baba said.
More than 100 witnesses may be called by Nel. About 20 people who live or work near Pistorius’s home in the capital city may give testimony in a trial broadcast live on radio and TV. Apart from the murder charge, Pistorius faces two counts of illegally firing a gun in public and one of illegally possessing ammunition.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE) and Luxottica Group SpA’s (LUX) Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.
To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg at email@example.com