March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius cried over the body of the girlfriend he had just shot, according to a witness at his murder trial who went to the scene after hearing screams and gunshots.
Johan Stipp, a radiologist who lived near to Pistorius’s home in Pretoria, the South African capital, entered the house shortly after the shooting on Valentine’s Day last year. He found Pistorius kneeling and praying next to the body of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. In cross-examination, Stipp said his reaction was genuine and may have been for “atonement.”
“The man said, ‘I shot her, I thought she was a burglar. I shot her,’” Stipp told the High Court in Pretoria on the fourth day of Pistorius’s trial on charges of premeditated murder.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, pleaded not guilty on March 3 to planning to kill Steenkamp. Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has admitted to shooting Steenkamp three times while she was in his bathroom, believing she was an intruder.
Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February 2013. Members of both families have been in the wood-paneled court this week. Presiding Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa will rule on the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
Witnesses for the prosecution testified about hearing a woman’s screams and cries for help around the time of the shooting. Pistorius’s lawyer, Barry Roux, said he will call an expert to testify, following tests, that Pistorius’s voice resembles that of a woman when he is anxious.
According to the defense, Pistorius broke through the door of the toilet using a cricket bat after realizing he had shot Steenkamp and that the screams the witnesses heard came from him. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the state will argue that Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp through the toilet door at 3:17 a.m. after an argument in which she screamed for help.
The athlete remained on the accused bench after the court was adjourned and cried with his hands shielding his face, before being consoled by his sister, Aimee. He covered his ears when Stipp described the scene in the house after the shooting.
Roux earlier questioned the similarities in the testimonies of married couple Michelle Burger and Charl Johnson and differences in Johnson’s evidence to the court and earlier statements to the police.
“It’s unfortunate because your interpretation today is a designed one,” Roux said to Johnson. “It’s a design on your side to incriminate, and that’s unfortunate.”
Johnson denied he was trying to give a bad impression of Pistorius.
“I did not make up my mind that Oscar Pistorius was guilty,” he said. “I felt a moral obligation as a witness to present a neutral version.”
More than 100 witnesses may be called by prosecutor Gerrie Nel. About 20 people who live or work near Pistorius’s home in the exclusive housing estate in the capital city are expected to give testimony in a trial scheduled to run for three weeks and 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. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.
To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Spillane in Pretoria at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gordon Bell at email@example.com