Thursday 12 December 2019

Pistorius 'torn apart', court told

Oscar Pistorius arrives at the high court in Pretoria (AP)
Oscar Pistorius arrives at the high court in Pretoria (AP)

A neighbour and friend of Oscar Pistorius has told his trial that the double-amputee athlete was "torn apart" and desperately trying to save Reeva Steenkamp minutes after fatally shooting her at his home.

Johan Stander and his daughter were at Pistorius' house soon after the shooting in the early hours of February 14, 2013, the court heard.

Mr Stander said that he believed the Olympian had made a mistake when he shot and killed Ms Steenkamp because of the runner's emotional state when they found him.

"I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I felt it," Mr Stander testified, saying Pistorius was "really crying. He was in pain."

Mr Stander was the fourth witness called by the defence and took the stand as the globally televised trial resumed after a two-week break and moved into its seventh week.

Pistorius' defence was attempting to present a scenario of his desperate panic at shooting his girlfriend in error through a toilet door after thinking she was a dangerous intruder, as he claims.

Prosecutors maintain Pistorius is lying and his story is designed to cover up that he shot the model and reality TV star intentionally in the midst of a heated night-time argument.

The 27-year-old, a multiple Paralympic champion and the first amputee to run at the Olympics, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the premeditated murder charge.

He slumped forward at one point with his head in his hands as details of what may have been Ms Steenkamp's last moments alive were discussed.

Mr Stander's testimony on the 26th day of the trial followed a shaky start by Pistorius' defence, where his story of an accidental killing came under scrutiny as he was cross-examined by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who tried to expose holes in his account of the events of that night. Two defence experts also had their evidence undermined by Nel.

Mr Stander became emotional at one point as he described what he said was Pistorius' "committed" attempt to save Ms Steenkamp's life as she lay on the floor of his Pretoria villa.

Mr Stander's daughter, Carice Viljoen, who also gave evidence today, cried as she said that she tried to stop the bleeding from a gunshot wound in Ms Steenkamp's arm.

Ms Steenkamp had been shot in the hip, arm and head by Pistorius through the stall door in his upstairs bathroom minutes earlier.

Mr Stander said Pistorius "was asking God to help him. He was torn apart, broken, desperate, pleading. It's difficult really to describe."

Mr Stander lived in the same gated community as Pistorius and was once on the estate's management committee. He said that he received a telephone call from Pistorius at 3.18 or 3.19am, minutes after the shooting, and the world-famous runner pleaded with him to come to his home and help.

"He (Pistorius) said on the call, 'Johan, please, please, please come to my house. Please. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please come quick'," Mr Stander recounted.

Cross-examining Mr Stander, prosecutor Mr Nel asked if he was a good friend of Pistorius and trying to "assist" the defence. Mr Stander said he had known Pistorius since 2009 and often looked after his home and dogs when the athlete was away competing.

"I'm here to give the truth," Mr Stander replied. "And I think I've given the truth. What I saw that morning."

Mr Nel also pushed Mr Stander on why he said he presumed that Pistorius had made a mistake when Pistorius had not used the word on the phone call. Mr Stander said it was his "understanding" that Pistorius had shot Ms Steenkamp in error.

Mr Stander said he and his daughter found Pistorius carrying Ms Steenkamp down the stairs of his villa when they went in.

"It's not something I would like to experience again, my lady," Mr Stander said, addressing the judge who will deliver a verdict in the trial. "Because that young man walking down the stairs with the lady, with a young woman. His face. The expression of pain, the expression of sorrow. And he's crying."

PA Media

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