Pistorius weeps as witness recalls shooting scene horror

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius reacts during the fourth day of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, March 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Werner Beukes/Pool)

PRETORIA: A weeping Oscar Pistorius shielded his ears as a witness in his murder trial Thursday gave harrowing evidence about desperate attempts to save Reeva Steenkamp’s life after she was shot.

Rocking back and forth in the dock, Pistorius put his hands over his ears as neighbor and radiologist Johan Stipp recounted how he entered his house to find the distraught Paralympian bent over, attempting to resuscitate his girlfriend.

Stipp noticed a wound on Steenkamp’s right thigh, right upper arm, and “blood and hair and what looked like brain tissue intermingled with that” on top of the skull.

Amid the scene of horror, Stipp said he quickly realized the 29-year-old model would not survive the injuries. “She had no pulse in her neck, she had no peripheral pulse, she had no breathing movements that she made. She was clenching down on Oscar’s fingers as he was trying to open her airway.”

“I opened her right eyelid, the pupil was fixed, dilated and the cornea was milky, in other words it was already drying out, so to me it was obvious that she was mortally wounded,” Stipp said.

During the testimony, sobbing could be heard around the courtroom as Steenkamp’s family and friends sat disconsolately arm-in-arm.

Stipp continued:

“While I was trying to ascertain if she’s revivable, Oscar was crying all the time, he prayed to God to please let her live, she must not die.”

“He said at one stage, while he was praying, that he will dedicate his life and her life to God if she would just only live and not die that night.”

“I couldn’t do anything for her, she was way too seriously injured for that.”

At one stage, seeing Pistorius leave Steenkamp’s body to go upstairs, Stipp also said he wanted to locate the weapon, fearing the sprinter may have been a danger to himself.

“Oscar was emotionally very, very upset and I didn’t know the situation in the house so I thought maybe he was going to hurt himself.”

During the graphic day of testimony, he started crying multiple times, rubbing his hand on his temples.

When court adjourned, the athlete looked visibly shaken.

As his lawyers packed up their bags, Pistorius’ sister Aimee, wearing an outfit of all black, went to sit with him in the dock, her arm around his shoulders.

Attorney and firearms lobbyist Martin Hood said the less subjective expert testimony that is still to come will be the real determiner in the trial.

“Expert testimony is going to be vitally important in light of the need to prove premeditated murder,” said Hood, speaking from Johannesburg.

The experts would use impartial forensic evidence and give scientific explanations, such as around the time of death and when phone calls were made, he added.

“I don’t think we’ve got to the meat of the matter yet,” he said.

Stipp’s evidence is the first eye-witness account of what happened inside Pistorius’ home that evening since the trial began Monday.

Pistorius stands accused of murdering Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate.

He claims to have shot her through a locked toilet door after mistaking her for an intruder.

Stipp also testified to being woken by gunshots and screams coming from Pistorius’ home on the night of Feb. 14, 2013, and then rushing over to see if he could help.

But the sequence of events appeared not to tally exactly with the evidence from three other neighbors who heard screams then shots.

Under cross-examination, the defense has put forward that the screaming was not a woman but an emotional Pistorius, arguing Thursday that Steenkamp was unable to scream due to the fatal shooting.

It has also suggested that loud bangs described by witnesses were not gunshots but a cricket bat being used to break down the toilet door to reach Steenkamp.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 07, 2014, on page 11.




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