Wednesday 13 November 2019

Steenkamp 'was scared of Pistorius'

Oscar Pistorius talks to his defence lawyer Barry Roux before proceedings at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)
Oscar Pistorius talks to his defence lawyer Barry Roux before proceedings at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)
Oscar Pistorius, left, accompanied by relatives arrives at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp argued fiercely in the turbulent weeks before he killed her, according to phone messages revealed at the Olympian's murder trial.

The athlete's girlfriend told him she was sometimes scared by his behaviour, which included jealous outbursts in front of other people, the court in Pretoria heard.

"I'm scared of u sometimes and how u snap at me and of how u will react to me," Reeva Steenkamp texted Pistorius, in a message read out in court by police captain Francois Moller.

In another message, Ms Steenkamp wrote to the double-amputee runner: "I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating u AND be attacked by you, the one person I deserve protection from."

The messages suggested both lovers were experiencing emotional insecurity, though the exchanges revealed in court reflected prosecutors' efforts to portray Pistorius as an aggressor with a short fuse, matching earlier testimony from a former girlfriend who had said he sometimes shouted at her.

In one message, the runner indicated Ms Steenkamp had not told him the full story about smoking "weed", or using drugs, while she defended past conduct with the declaration: "I wasn't a stripper or a 'ho,'" a slang term for prostitute.

The court adjourned with Mr Moller expected to return to the witness box on Tuesday. He has not yet revealed if police recovered any phone messages or communications from the night of the killing on February 14, 2013.

Mr Moller said that from Ms Steenkamp's phone he obtained more than 1,000 exchanges with Pistorius on WhatsApp and other phone messaging applications. 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 the shooting death of Ms Steenkamp.

The data on Ms Steenkamp's phone would print to more than 35,000 pages, said Mr Moller. Of the fraction of exchanges between the couple, he said that about 90% were what he called normal and "loving" exchanges.

In Ms Steenkamp's message about being scared of the athlete, she also added: "You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together."

She goes on to talk about Pistorius snapping at her about chewing gum and talking in an accent, and then writes: "I just want to love and be loved. Be happy and make someone SO happy. Maybe we can't do that for each other. Cos right now I know u aren't happy and I am certainly very unhappy and sad."

The long message was sent after the two attended a friend's engagement party and apparently left early because she said he got upset and jealous. As Mr Moller read the message, Pistorius, who had been looking at a book of the compiled messages, closed his eyes. Tears fell to his lap. He wiped his eyes with a handkerchief and regained the composure he held through most of the day.

The runner apologised for his behavior in replies to Ms Steenkamp's message, according to the testimony.

Mr Moller also read messages exchanged after a shooting incident at Tashas restaurant in Johannesburg about a month before the fatal shooting. Boxer Kevin Lerena and Darren Fresco, a one-time friend of Pistorius, testified that the Olympian asked Mr Fresco to take the blame for a shot that went off after the loaded gun was passed to Pistorius under the table.

In the phone message exchange, the 27-year-old runner explained to 29-year-old Ms Steenkamp: "Angel, please don't say a thing to anyone ... the guys promised not to say a thing," he wrote. She then replied: "I have no idea what you're talking about".

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to a firearms charge related to that episode.

Earlier on Monday a neighbour testified that she heard gunshots as well as screams from both a man and a woman on the night that Pistorius fatally shot Ms Steenkamp.

Anette Stipp's testimony matched some evidence given by other witnesses who said they also heard a woman screaming around the time that Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp before dawn on Valentine's Day last year. According to Pistorius, he thought Ms Steenkamp was in bed when he fired his 9mm pistol. He did not describe any woman screaming.

The defence has countered that neighbours actually heard Pistorius screaming in a high-pitched voice after he shot Ms Steenkamp. Pistorius has said he shot his girlfriend by mistake through a locked toilet door, thinking she was an intruder in his home.

Mrs Stipp said she heard what she thought were gunshots on the night of the shooting, and then heard the "terrified, terrified" screams of a woman.

Mrs Stipp recalled looking out from a balcony at two houses with lights on in the gated estate where her family and Pistorius lived.

"There was definitely a female screaming for quite a period," Mrs Stipp said. She said she also heard a man's voice.

PA Media

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