Monday 19 March 2018

Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Reeva's Valentine's Day card says 'I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you'

Oscar Pistorius has resumed giving evidence. (AP)
Oscar Pistorius has resumed giving evidence. (AP)

Reeva Steenkamp told Oscar Pistorius she was in love with him in a love letter meant for Valentine's Day just hours before she was shot dead, his murder trial heard.

Returning to the witness box for re-examination from his defence counsel, Pistorius read out Ms Steenkamp's Valentine's letter, in which she wrote: "I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you".

She signed the letter with her name, smiley faces and kisses.

Earlier in his evidence, the athlete, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, told Pretoria's High Court he cried "Baby, please hold on" and "Jesus, please help me" after shooting his girlfriend dead through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day last year.

He told the court he found Ms Steenkamp "seated on her right buttock with her right arm on top of the toilet bowl" and her head resting on her shoulder. She was shot in the arm, hip and head.


The Valentine's card Reeva Steenkamp gave to Oscar Pistorius.

Oscar Pistorius and the chief prosecutor at his murder trial sparred for a fifth day today over the athlete's account of how he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home last year.

"I crouched over her and I put my left arm underneath her right arm and I checked to see if she was breathing or she had a pulse," he continued. "I heard her breathing so I tried to get her up and out of the toilet. I wasn't able to so I scuttled round on my legs, which is probably how I kicked the magazine rack."

An emotional Pistorius told his murder trial he managed to bring Ms Steenkamp downstairs and was met by Silver Woods Estate manager Johan Stander outside his home who told him to "put her down" because an ambulance was on its way.

Pistorius today denied shooting Reeva Steenkamp dead as her "blood-curdling" screams penetrated his apartment.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel put it to Pistorius that he had armed himself "with the sole purpose of shooting and killing" his girlfriend.

Ending five days of cross examination, Mr Nel once again reduced Pistorius to tears as he asked him who was to blame for the bullets that "ripped through her body".

Mr Nel said Pistorius' version of events had become "more and more improbable" as he continued to "tailor his evidence" to suit his story.

Pistorius has come under intense pressure from Gerrie Nel, known locally in South Africa as "the pitbull", who has said the double-amputee runner is lying in the witness box at the High Court in Pretoria.

Mr Nel claims that Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp after an argument and made up a story about mistakenly shooting her amid fears of an intruder in his house.

Pistorius fatally shot Ms Steenkamp through a closed toilet door in his home before dawn on February 14 last year.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

The 27-year-old has struggled to explain alleged inconsistencies during his evidence, sometimes breaking into sobs.

Today, Mr Nel argued that alleged discrepancies in Pistorius's bail statement in February 2013, shortly after the shooting, and his current evidence show that the athlete is again "tailoring" his account to try to create a more convincing story.

The prosecutor noted that last year Pistorius said he opened fire out of fear after hearing a "movement" in the toilet cubicle - Mr Nel said the choice of word suggested the athlete had heard a person behind the closed toilet door.

Since the bail statement, Pistorius has said he fired after hearing a "wood abrasion" sound which he interpreted as a possible intruder opening the toilet door to attack him.

Mr Nel said he would wrap up his cross-examination of Pistorius later today. He also asked the judge for a break in the trial that would begin later this week and end on May 5, due to other work commitments and "personal arrangements" made by both prosecution and defence lawyers for the forthcoming Easter holiday period.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux agreed with Mr Nel's request.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said she would respond to the request tomorrow.

Mr Roux asked Pistorius to describe his feelings and emotions in the seconds before he shot at the door.

"I was terrified. I feared for my life. I was just scared," Pistorius said. "I was thinking about what could happen to me, to Reeva. I was just extremely fearful."

During cross-examination, Pistorius gave a sometimes muddled account of the shooting, saying he feared for his life but also did not intentionally shoot at anyone. He also told Mr Roux he did not consciously pull the trigger on his gun and said it happened "before I could think".

Following Pistorius's evidence, the defence called Roger Dixon, a forensic expert.

Mr Dixon said he conducted light tests in Pistorius's bedroom on a "moonless night" - as he said the night of the shooting was - and they showed it was almost completely dark in the bedroom. Mr Dixon also went back to the house yesterday, he said, and tested for light again with one of the small blue lights of Pistorius's music system on, which Pistorius said was the case on the night of the shooting.

"With your back to the light I couldn't see into the darker areas of the room," Mr Dixon said, apparently supporting Pistorius's evidence that he could not see Ms Steenkamp leave the bed to go to the bathroom, and so did not know it was her in the toilet cubicle.

The defence also played recordings in court from noise tests they conducted at a shooting range on a replica door being hit with a bat and being shot at. The sounds were similar. Pistorius's team was attempting to reinforce the argument that neighbours who say Ms Steenkamp screamed before the gunshots may have confused the gunshots with the sounds of Pistorius hitting the door with a cricket bat, and were actually hearing Pistorius scream as he tried to break the door down to help Ms Steenkamp.

Press Association and Independent News Service

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