Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, almost certainly screamed while she was hit by bullets fired by the Paralympian gold medalist, medical examiner Gert Saayman told his murder trial.
Three of Pistorius’s neighbors testified last week that they heard a woman screaming while the shots were fired. Defense lawyer Barry Roux has said the screams they heard were those of Pistorius.
“It would be somewhat abnormal if someone does not scream when sustaining wounds of this nature,” Saayman told the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, today.
Steenkamp was killed early on Valentine’s Day last year when she was hit in the hip, the arm and the skull by hollow-point bullets fired by Pistorius at what he has said he thought was an intruder. She was in a toilet cubicle in his bathroom. Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of premeditated murder and three separate gun offenses.
Saayman, who said he carried out or supervised as many as 15,000 autopsies, also told the court that an analysis of Steenkamp’s stomach showed she may have eaten about two hours before she was killed, or after 1 a.m. on Feb. 14. Pistorius has said they went to bed at 10 p.m.
Judge Thokozile Masipa will give a final judgment after the scheduled three-week trial because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February last year. The seventh day of the trial adjourned at about 3 p.m. local time.
Masipa ruled that the testimony of Saayman, the head of the forensic medicine department at the University of Pretoria, not be broadcast on television or radio. Saayman requested his evidence not be streamed live because it was too graphic. The judge today lifted a ban on posting the testimony on Twitter.
Wearing a charcoal-colored suit, Pistorius sat on the accused bench in front of family members in the wood-paneled court.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has portrayed Pistorius as usually armed and reckless with a hair-trigger temper. The defense team has tried to discredit testimony of neighbors about the timing of screams and gunshots, and of an ex-girlfriend who said Pistorius always had a gun next to his bed and carried one with him whenever he could.
Roux has argued that the screams neighbors heard were by Pistorius after he realized he had shot Steenkamp through the toilet door, and that some of 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.
The court also heard today that Pistorius laughed after firing a gun through the sunroof of a car, contradicting the athlete’s argument that he didn’t shoot his weapon.
Pistorius was traveling with his then girlfriend Samantha Taylor and friend Darren Fresco when they were stopped and fined by police for speeding. A police officer picked up Pistorius’s firearm off his seat and removed a bullet from the chamber, which upset the athlete and led to an altercation between the two, Fresco said.
“He was furious that someone else had touched his gun,” Fresco said. “Without prior warning he shot out of the sunroof. The noise had gone off above my left ear. By that stage it literally felt as if my ear was bleeding. I had a constant ringing in my left ear. He just laughed about what happened.”
Taylor told the court on March 7 that Pistorius fired his weapon through the sunroof after he and Fresco had joked about shooting a traffic light.
Fresco corroborated testimony from Boxer Kevin Lerena last week that Pistorius discharged a Glock firearm in a Johannesburg restaurant. Fresco handed Pistorius a gun under a table after he requested it and told the athlete there was a bullet in the chamber.
“What he didn’t realize is that he’d cycled another bullet into the chamber,” Fresco said. “He pulled the trigger to supposedly make it safe. A shot went off.”
Fresco said he agreed to Pistorius’s request the he accept responsibility for the gunshot.
Nel may call more than 100 witnesses 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. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.