Oscar Pistorius Trial Hears Steenkamp Frightened of AthletePaul Burkhardt and Chris Spillane
Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend said in text messages to the Paralympian gold medalist that she was frightened of him and “how you snap at me” weeks before he killed her, a police investigator told his murder trial.
Francois Moller, an investigator at the directorate of priority crime, known as the Hawks, read WhatsApp messages he obtained from the mobile phones of Pistorius and his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, today at the High Court in the Pretoria, South Africa’s capital.
“I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me,” Steenkamp said in Jan. 27, 2013, message after an argument. “You have picked on me incessantly since you came back from” Cape Town. Pistorius bowed his head and wiped his eyes as the messages were read.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, and three separate gun-related charges. He says he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her through a locked toilet cubicle door in his bathroom.
“You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people,” Steenkamp said in the WhatsApp message. “We are living in a double standard relationship where you can be mad about how I deal with stuff when you are very quick to act cold and offish when you’re unhappy.”
Pistorius replied 25 minutes later saying “please let me know when I can call you.”
Ninety percent of the messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp were normal and loving, Moller told the court.
Earlier today, a neighbor told the court that she heard “terrifying screams” by a woman moments before the athlete shot Steenkamp.
“I couldn’t make out what she was screaming, it was just screams, very terrified screaming,” Anette Stipp, an occupational therapist who can see Pistorius’s house from her bed, told the court.
The trial, which is being broadcast live on radio and TV, started on March 3. Judge Thokozile Masipa will give a final judgment because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February last year.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he may wrap up his case this week, paving the way for Pistorius to testify about why he killed Steenkamp.
Defense lawyer Kenny Oldwadge challenged Stipp after she admitted that she was wrong when she said in her statement to the police a month after the killing that she had seen a man in the window of the bathroom at Pistorius’s house.
Stipp said she awoke at about 3:02 a.m. local time coughing and then heard what sounded like three shots in rapid succession, following by screaming by a woman and shouts from a man. Minutes later she heard three more shots. She admitted she may not have heard all the bullets.
The first and second sets of shots sounded the same, she said.
“I could still hear the scream up until the second set of shots,” Stipp said. “I could also hear a man screaming.”
The prosecution and defense agree that Pistorius fired only four bullets. The defense says the athlete bashed through the toilet door after realizing it was Steenkamp in the cubicle.
Steenkamp was standing when the first hollow-point bullet broke her hip bone, then she fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, police ballistics expert Chris Mangena said in testimony on March 19. She was struck by two more bullets from Pistorius’s pistol, in the arm and the head, he said.
“She was standing in front of the door, facing the door,” Mangena said. Pistorius would have been at least two feet away when he fired, he said.
Mangena said that since the first bullet caused Steenkamp to fall from a standing position, it was probable that there was a delay after the initial shot before the final three were fired. The position of her arms showed Steenkamp may have been trying to shield herself after the first shot was fired, he said.
The prosecution team has sought to portray Pistorius as both obsessed and reckless with weapons and having a quick temper. Witnesses testified how he shot through the sunroof of a car and in a Johannesburg restaurant.
The athlete ordered six firearms, including a Smith & Wesson 500 revolver and a semi-automatic rifle, Sean Rens, a firearms trainer, told the trial on March 17. The order was canceled about a month after he shot Steenkamp, Rens said.
Pistorius correctly answered questions in a mandatory test that he had a legal right to fire at possible intruders at his home only when he was directly threatened by a weapon, Rens said.
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.
Ossur hf, the Icelandic company that manufactures the blades used by Pistorius, said it may resume ties with the athlete if he’s acquitted of murder charges after announcing it had ended relations, Sveinn Solvason, Ossur’s chief financial officer, said by phone March 17.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.
His law firm said March 20 that Pistorius is selling the home in the Silver Woods Country Estate where he shot Steenkamp.
“Due to the delay in finalizing the trial, the decision to urgently dispose of his single biggest asset has had to be made,” Brian Webber, Ramsay Webber Inc. said in a statement on the athlete’s website. “Mr. Pistorius cannot contemplate ever returning to live there again.”