Sunday 25 March 2018

‘Oscar loved girlfriend Reeva,’ lawyer tells court

Oscar Pistorius wipes tears from his face as he sits in the dock during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius wipes tears from his face as he sits in the dock during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius holds his head in his hands as he listens to evidence being given in court in Pretoria, South Africa today
Oscar Pistorius, center, arrives with relatives at the high court in Pretoria (AP)
Reeva Steenkamp's mother June (L) leaves after the trial of Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria March 24, 2014. Photo: Reuters.

The chief lawyer for Oscar Pistorius has sought to show that the athlete had a loving relationship with the girlfriend he killed, referring to telephone messages in which they exchanged warm compliments and said they missed each other.

The testimony contrasted with several messages read out in court at the request of the prosecution yesterday in which Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp argued in the weeks before he shot her. In those messages, Steenkamp told the double-amputee runner that she was sometimes scared by his behaviour, which included jealous outbursts in front of other people.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux noted that the tense messages were a tiny fraction of roughly 1,700 that police Captain Francois Moller, a mobile phone expert, extracted from the mobile devices of the couple.

Mr Roux noted an exchange from January 19 last year in which Steenkamp sent Pistorius a photo of herself in a hoodie and making a kissing face, followed by the message: "You like it?"

"I love it," Pistorius said, according to the message.

"So warm," Steenkamp responded.

Mr Roux was also granted permission to show CCTV video that showed Pistorius and Steenkamp kissing in a convenience store. And he asked Mr Moller to read out a January 9 message from the model to her athlete boyfriend. It read: "You are a very special person. You deserve to be looked after."

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned the relevance of showing the convenience store video, saying he could ask for a courtroom viewing of another video that shows Pistorius at a gun range, firing a shotgun and using a pistol to shoot a watermelon, which bursts on impact.

Mr Nel also said that many messages of affection between the couple were brief, in contrast to the texted arguments, which were far longer and dwelled on their relationship in greater depth.

Earlier, Mr Moller said Steenkamp connected to the internet on her mobile hours before Pistorius killed her. She made the connection just before 9pm on February 13 last year, and the connection lasted for more than 11 hours, possibly because social media programmes were still open.

Pistorius fatally shot her shortly after 3am through a closed toilet door in his home.

"If an application is not closed, it will carry on running," Mr Moller said.

Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day, and Mr Moller's extraction of data also shed light on what appeared to be a frantic series of phone calls made from one of Pistorius's phones after the killing. They include a call to the administrator of the housing estate where Pistorius lived at 3.19am on February 14, a call a minute later to an ambulance service and a call a minute after that to the housing estate security.

The phone used for those and other calls was handed to police 11 days later, Mr Moller said.

Police analysis also showed that a five-minute internet connection was made on Pistorius's telephone from 1.48am on February 14, a little over an hour before he killed Steenkamp. Mr Moller did not specify whether the connection was manual or automatic.

Mr Moller said he received as evidence two BlackBerry phones, two iPhones, two iPads and a Mac computer from Pistorius's house the day after Steenkamp was shot.

Prosecutors allege Pistorius killed Steenkamp after an argument. Pistorius says he killed her by accident, mistaking her for an intruder in his house.

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