Oscar Pistorius 'likely' to testify Friday as defence opens

Mar 26, 2014, 08:22 IST | AFP

Oscar Pistorius will "likely" take the stand on Friday as his defence team launches its bid to clear him of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, his lawyer said

Pretoria: Oscar Pistorius will "likely" take the stand on Friday as his defence team launches its bid to clear him of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, his lawyer said.

The court adjourned for two days on Tuesday after prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the state, which accuses Pistorius of pre-meditated murder, had completed its case in the fourth week of the highly-publicised trial.

Pistorius's lawyer Brian Webber said that Paralympian sprinter would "likely" take the stand right at the start of the defence's case.

"I don't think we have a choice, it's a question of when," he said, although Kenny Oldwage, another defence lawyer, was more circumspect, saying "we'll see about that".

The 27-year-old athlete's defence requested the break in the proceedings to consult witnesses not called by the state.

On Tuesday Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux argued that the sprinter had a loving relationship with Steenkamp whom he admits to shooting dead in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.

The state argues that the Paralympian gold medallist killed his girlfriend after an argument, firing at her four times through a locked toilet door at his Pretoria home in an upmarket gated estate.

Pistorius has said the shooting was a tragic accident that occurred after he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, and that he bashed through the toilet door to reach her.

Several neighbours called to the stand testified to hearing a woman's terrified screams and gunshots on the night she was killed.

Other witnesses depicted the sprinter as hot-headed and gun obsessed, with two friends and an ex-girlfriend telling the court Pistorius fired a gun from a moving car and in a restaurant for which he asked a friend to take the blame.

Based on the 29-year-old Steenkamp's wounds, a police ballistics expert testified that she was likely to have been standing and facing the locked toilet door when the first shot fractured her hip bone.

One of the next three hit her head. The state has argued that she would have had time to scream after a first, non-lethal shot -- and therefore that Pistorius must have known it was her behind the door when he fired the gun again.

'Angel' and 'baba'
Police technology expert Francois Moller gave details Tuesday of the couple's phone records, which revealed several calls were made from the sprinter's phone in quick succession after the shooting.

The first was at 3:19 am on February 14 to a manager of his residential estate in Pretoria. Calls then went through to an ambulance, at 3:20 am, and then to his estate security.

Later calls went out to a friend, then to Pistorius's brother Carl, and finally Peet Van Zyl, his longtime manager.

On Monday, the court heard that Steenkamp told her boyfriend she was sometimes afraid of him in text messages that pointed to him being jealous and controlling.

"I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you react to me," Steenkamp wrote less than three weeks before her death after Pistorius apparently accused her of flirting with another man.

But Pistorius's lawyer Roux argued that only four conversations between the couple were highlighted as argumentative out of more than 1,700 entries.

"There was a disagreement, unhappiness but if you look at the messages, it was resolved very quickly," he told the court.

Over 90 percent of messages between the two were affectionate, police expert Moller testified.

The defence drew attention Tuesday to messages in which the couple used pet names such as "angel" and "baba", and presented CCTV footage of the pair kissing.

"You are an amazing person with so many blessings and you are more than cared for," Steenkamp told Pistorius via messaging service WhatsApp on February 13, the day before she died.

The athlete told her, "stay tonight if you like" as part of the exchange of messages read out in court.

Roux also showed a CCTV video of the couple flirting while buying groceries 10 days before Steenkamp's death. At one point, the athlete leaned over and kissed his girlfriend.

The double amputee earned worldwide fame running on two carbon fibre blades at the Paralympics and 2012 London Games.

If convicted, he faces 25 years in prison and an abrupt end to his international career.

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