PRETORIA (AFP) - An overcome Oscar Pistorius was physically sick in court on Monday as he listened to harrowing testimony about the autopsy of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom he is accused of killing.
Sitting in the dock, a clearly emotional Pistorius retched and heaved as University of Pretoria pathologist Gert Saayman gave a graphic account of the multiple bullet wounds Pistorius admits inflicting.
Pistorius says he fired four shots at Steenkamp on February 14, 2013 through a locked toilet door, believing her to be an intruder. He denies a charge of murder.
Prof Saayman – whose testimony the media has been banned from directly reporting – told the court how Ms Steenkamp was struck four times with bullets from Pistorius’s nine millimetre pistol. Ms Steenkamp was shot once on the top right of head, once in the right elbow and once in the right hip. She was also stuck in the webbing of her left hand. The model and law graduate also sustained injuries from fragments of bullet, fragements of the door and fragments of her own bone.
As the details were read out, the court was forced to adjourn as Pistorius broke down, his shoulders visibly shaking.
“Mr Roux can you just attend to the accused, not sure what’s happening?” Judge Thokozile Masipa said addressing Pistorius’s lawyer.
In the public gallery Pistorius’s aunt Ms Lois took off her glasses, closing her eyes for an extended period. His coach Ampie Louw sat still staring at Prof Saayman, as the sound of retching continued.
Judge Masipa earlier upheld a request from the prosecution, defence and the witness not to allow live audio broadcast of the testimony because of its graphic content. “There shall be no live broadcast of the evidence of Professor Saayman,” Masipa ruled. “That applies to Twitter.” Blog posts were also banned.
Professor Saayman earlier asked that his testimony not be broadcast for ethical reasons. He said the graphic nature of the autopsy report may infringe on Steenkamp’s dignity and harm unsuspecting members of the public who saw or heard the testimony. “I think that it goes against the good morals of society for us to make information of this nature available in a manner that vulnerable or unsuspecting people in society may be exposed,” Prof Saayman told the court.
Media houses earlier won unprecedented rights to broadcast on television large chunks of the court proceedings, while audio of the whole trial was initially allowed throughout. The defence is expected to argue that the first shots were fatal, making it impossible for witnesses to have heard her scream as they claim. The prosecution is expected to argue the last shot was the one that killed her.
In early proceedings on Monday Pistorius’s defence sought to undermine the state’s assertion that the sprinter told a security guard “everything was fine” after he shot his girlfriend. Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux attempted to show a statement made by security guard Pieter Baba proved the Paralympic sprinter phoned security and said “I’m okay.”
Last week, in testimony that cast doubt on the Paralympian’s claims of a “tragic accident,” Mr Baba told the court that after he was informed that gunshots were heard coming from the runner’s house, he phoned Pistorius, who told him “everything is fine.” Mr Roux pointed out that in the first statement Baba made, he said Pistorius told him “I’m okay.” Mr Rouxalso said that phone records showed the sprinter phoned Mr Baba first. “I prove to you the fact was Pistorius phoned first and you returned that call very shortly,” said Mr Roux.
But Mr Baba, wearing an orange plaid shirt, dug in his heels. “My lady, it is obvious that our times are not the same,” he said, insisting that “Mr Pistorius told me that everything is fine.”