In Brief

Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected

Former star athlete loses bid to cut 13-year jail term for murder of Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius: what is his defence and can it succeed?

5 August

Both sides in the Oscar Pistorius trial agree that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times though a toilet door. She was killed with expanding bullets, designed to cause maximum tissue damage, which hit her in the head, hip and elbow on Valentine's Day last year. So how can Pistorius avoid jail?

His defence appears to have changed over the course of the trial. Defence lawyers told reporters yesterday that they had filed their closing arguments to the High Court in Pretoria and "are ready" for the final showdown with the prosecution later this week. The state claims Pistorius knew Steenkamp was behind the toilet door and shot her with the intention to kill following an argument. The athlete says he mistook her for a dangerous intruder. But under South African law, firing with intent to kill can be ruled as murder even if the defendant was mistaken about his target. Here are the defence options aired so far...

Putative self-defence

At the start of the trial, it appeared Pistorius would argue "putative self-defence". He cannot use the basic self-defence principle because there was no actual threat to his life. Putative self-defence means the accused genuinely believed their life was under threat and used "reasonable means" to protect themselves. Defence lawyer Barry Roux has sought to show that Pistorius was vulnerable due to his disability and had previously fallen victim to violent crime. Pistorius told the court he was "extremely fearful, overcome with a sense of terror and vulnerability" in the moments before he fired the gun. But one piece of evidence that might damage this defence is Pistorius's written gun competency test, taken in 2012 so he could obtain a licence. The athlete explains, in his own handwriting, when a gun owner is allowed to use lethal force against an intruder. "Attack must be against you. Must be unlawful. Must be against person," he wrote. "Know your target, and what lies beyond."

Involuntary action

As Pistorius later gave evidence in court, his defence appeared to change from "putative self-defence" to "involuntary action", where the accused's mind does not control his behaviour. Pistorius told the court he was so terrified that he unconsciously pulled the trigger. "I didn't have time to think, I discharged my firearm," he said. For putative self-defence to apply, Pistorius would have to have intended to shoot the intruder, but in his evidence he said he did not. "I didn't intend to fire but I fired. I pulled the trigger. My firearm was pointing to where I perceived the danger to be," he said. While this suggests Roux might argue involuntary action, legal experts say this defence is normally saved for cases such as sleep-walking or epileptic seizures. South African law also recognises "temporary non-pathological incapacity", akin to temporary insanity, where a killer is so overwhelmed with emotion that they briefly lose control. Roux might argue that Pistorius was so overwhelmed with terror that he involuntarily fired his gun.

Pathological incapacity

When defence witness Dr Merryll Vorster told the court that Pistorius suffered from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, prosecutor Gerrie Nel suggested the athlete's legal team was pursuing a "third defence". Roux insisted he only wanted the information to be "taken into account" by the court, but Pistorius was sent for a 30-day psychiatric evaluation so the judge could be certain about his mental state. Any chance of Pistorius using pathological incapacity as a defence appeared to evaporate when the results came in. "Mr Pistorus did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible for the offence charged," said the report.

Pistorius cannot dodge jail with murder acquittal alone

 

Oscar Pistorius's brother 'in critical condition'

4 August

The older brother of Oscar Pistorius is in a critical condition after a car accident.

Carl Pistorius remains in hospital in Pretoria, but his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. "Carl was badly hurt but we are thankful that he is out of danger," an uncle said in a statement.

The accident happened near the town of Modimolle in Limpopo province, about 120 miles north of Johannesburg. According to the uncle, a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction pulled out in front of Carl Pistorius's car to overtake slow-moving traffic. 

Police said that the drivers of both vehicles had to be cut free from the wreckage.

"Last year Carl Pistorius was acquitted on charges related to a 2008 collision with a female motorcyclist who died a few days later," the Daily Telegraph reports. It describes Carl as a "strong source of support" for Oscar Pistorius during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius: what he would face in South African prison

18 July

Oscar Pistorius faces up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The high-profile case, which is finally drawing to a close, has shed a unique light on South Africa's justice system, as well as the country's prisons.

Conditions vary, but one major nationwide issue is overcrowding. The overall prison population in South Africa stands at 157,394, the highest on the continent, according to the latest statistics from the International Centre for Prison Studies. The country's prisons have an occupancy rate of 128 per cent, putting a strain on sanitation, ventilation and medical care.

In some prisons, inmates are kept locked up for 23 hours a day, with just one hour outside their cell. In one prison, the government is investigating claims that inmates were punished with electric shocks, beatings and forced injections.

More than a quarter of South Africa's inmates are pre-trial detainees – an endurance test Pistorius has managed to avoid as he is out on bail. Living conditions for these 44,000 remand detainees have been described as even worse than for sentenced offenders.

One paraplegic man awaiting trial in South Africa told The Guardian he was among 88 men in one cell designed for 32, all sharing one toilet and one shower. The food, he said, was covered in flies and prisoners die in the cells because they cannot get medical attention.

The country's Department of Correctional Services revealed that 650 rapes had been reported in South Africa's prisons between 2010 and 2013. But human rights organisations, such as Just Detention, believe that sexual violence in jails goes "gravely underreported". One young inmate who went to Pretoria High Court last year in an attempt to improve his living arrangements claimed he feared for his life in jail, that he had been raped several times and also contracted HIV.

Laurie Pieters, an offender profiler and criminologist, has described prison in South Africa as "notoriously a very dangerous place" and believes Pistorius would be targeted for his disability as well as his notoriety. "Everybody knows who he is. You are going to have one lot targeting him for money and then maybe even others offering him protection for money," he told the Daily Telegraph.

However, Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, project coordinator for Johannesburg civil rights group Wits Justice Project, believes the athlete's medical needs would be taken into account. She told CNN he could be sent to a prison with better medical facilities or wheelchair access.

Defence and prosecution lawyers are due to make their final arguments in front of the Judge Thokozile Masipa on 7 August. As CNN says, Pistorius's lawyers will be fighting hard to make sure he can avoid a stint behind bars.

 

Oscar Pistorius involved in nightclub fight

15 July

Witnesses to a brawl in a South African nightclub say Oscar Pistorius was "drunk and aggressive" this weekend when he got into a fight over the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend of three months whom he shot dead last year.

Pistorius is currently standing trial for Steenkamp's murder. He admits shooting her but says he believed she was an intruder hiding in his bathroom.

The Daily Telegraph says Pistorius got into the fight on Saturday evening in VIP room of a Johannesburg nightclub. A spokesman for the 27-year-old athlete confirmed that the altercation took place but said the other party was the aggressor. 

According to the Pistorius camp, he was sitting quietly when the man, named by South African gossip site The Juice as Jared Mortimer, approached him and "aggressively engage[d] him on matters relating to the trial".

Pistorius left the club soon after and now "regrets the decision to go into a public place and thereby inviting unwelcome attention", his spokeswoman said.

According to Mortimer, however, Pistorius was "drunk and very aggressive" and poked Mortimer in the chest, telling him how influential his family was and insisting that they "owned" South African president Jacob Zuma.

Mortimer told The Juice: "He said you'll never get the better of me. I'll always get the better of you." Annoyed by being poked in the chest and pulled around the neck, Mortimer alleges he pushed Pistorius over, leading bouncers to intervene.

The brawl came just hours before the athlete broke his long silence on Twitter. Once a prolific user of the micro-blogging site, Pistorius has only tweeted once in the 12 months since he killed Steenkamp.

The day after the fight, however, he began to post again (see below) – including a lengthy quotation which seemed to compare his own recent life to the ordeal suffered by holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

Oscar Pistorius breaks Twitter silence with holocaust text 

14 July

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, on trial for murder after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has broken his silence on Twitter by quoting a holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl.

Pistorius was a prolific user of the micro-blogging site until Steenkamp's death in February last year. After he killed her under contested circumstances – he claims he mistook her for an intruder – Pistorius stopped using the site for a year. 

Then, on the first anniversary of the Valentine's Day shooting, Pistorius used Twitter to advertise a short tribute he had posted on his own website. He then fell silent again, until yesterday when he tweeted three times, says the Daily Mirror.

The first tweet is a collage of photographs of Pistorius posing with disabled children, presumably taken before Steenkamp's death, to illustrate the text: "You have the ability to make a difference in someones [sic] life. Sometimes it's the simple things you say or do that can make someone feel better or inspire them."

The third post is a religious text - but the second is the most revealing and has attracted the most attention. It is a photograph of a page of text from Man's Search for Meaning, a seminal 1946 work by psychologist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl:

pic.twitter.com/UFxSHfpavj

— Oscar Pistorius (@OscarPistorius) July 13, 2014

Frankl was imprisoned in Auschwitz at the age of 39. His wife, brother, father and mother all died in concentration camps. Man's Search for Meaning is a close examination of why some inmates were psychologically broken by the camps, while others were not. 

Frankl believed that some victims of the Nazis had survived by fixing their hopes on a beloved person, or on God. It was the thought of that figure which gave them the strength to carry on and avoid sinking into despair.

Pistorius quotes the pivotal moment of Frankl's own imprisonment, when as he suffered he thought of his wife - and understood that "the salvation of man is through love and in love".

The text continues: "I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved."

Reeva Steenkamp died on 14 February 2013 when Pistorius shot and killed her through a bathroom door. They had been dating for about three months.

The prosecution claims that he killed her intentionally, but he denies the charge. The trial is likely to conclude next month.

 

Oscar Pistorius trial: what happens next?

10 July

When the trial of Oscar Pistorius resumes next month, it will at last enter its final stages.

It began on 3 March at the High Court in Pretoria and will last for at least another month, as the defence and prosecution make their closing arguments.

Pistorius denies the deliberate murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot dead on Valentine's Day last year. He says he thought she was a dangerous intruder when he opened fire at his closed bathroom door. The prosecution says he killed her intentionally.

Final arguments

The trial has adjourned until 7 August to allow the prosecution and defence to prepare their final written arguments. These documents will explain in detail each side’s version of events on the night of the shooting and how the evidence presented in court supports their account. The documents will be given to the judge, her assessors and the opposing sides. Both the defence and prosecution will also put their arguments verbally to the court.

Judgement

The case will be adjourned, possibly for a few weeks, to give Judge Masipa and her assessors time to consider the final written documents and the evidence they have heard in court. South Africa abolished jury trials under apartheid in 1969, due to fears of racial prejudice by white jurors. A judgement will therefore be passed by Masipa, who could take a day or more in court giving her summary and analysis of the evidence.

Sentencing

If Pistorius is found guilty then the court must consider an appropriate sentence. Both sides are entitled to present arguments or evidence for a longer or shorter sentence. If convicted of premeditated murder, the athlete faces up to 25 years in prison.

Pistorius cannot dodge jail with murder acquittal alone

Appeal

If Pistorius is convicted, he could still appeal to the supreme court, where three to five judges would listen to his case, and even eventually to South Africa’s constitutional court.

Oscar Pistorius: some defence witnesses 'refused to testify'

8 July

Potential witnesses in the Oscar Pistorius trial refused to testify because they did not want "their voices all over the world", according to the athlete's defence lawyer.

Closing his case, Barry Roux said that the publicity surrounding the case had put some witnesses off but he chose not to ask Judge Thokozile Masipa to compel them to appear, reports the BBC.

David Dadic, a litigation attorney in Johannesburg, suggested this allusion to an unfair trial might form grounds for appeal if Pistorius is convicted.

The Pistorius trial is the first in South Africa to be partially broadcast. In February this year, a judge ruled that the entire audio of the trial could be broadcast live, while sections of the trial could be filmed and televised live. Witnesses were given the opportunity to apply in writing if they did not want to be on camera, but they were told that the audio of their testimony would still be broadcast.

However, Judge Masipa banned coverage of Reeva Steenkamp's autopsy report on ethical grounds. Journalists were prevented from giving a blow-by-blow account of pathologist Gert Saayman's testimony and told to only paraphrase his quotes.

On day two of the trial, one local television studio leaked a photograph of the state's first witness, Michelle Burger, who had asked for her image not to be broadcast. This drew sharp criticism from the judge, who warned members of the media that they would not be "treated with soft gloves" by the court.

Today, the prosecution announced that it will file its closing arguments on 30 July and the defence will do so on 4 August. Roux and prosecutor Gerrie Nel will return to court on 7 August to make their final arguments in front of the judge.

Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp by mistake, believing that a dangerous intruder was in the toilet and about to attack him. The prosecution claims he shot her deliberately after an argument on Valentine's Day last year.

Oscar Pistorius re-enactment video: lawyers hit out at leak

7 July

Oscar Pistorius's lawyers have hit out at an Australian television station that showed leaked footage of the athlete re-enacting the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Channel Seven last night aired the footage, in which Pistorius can be seen moving awkwardly on his stumps pretending to hold a gun. He is also seen screaming and crying for help, and carrying his younger sister Aimee down a flight of stairs.

The video was recorded in his uncle's home and was to be used by American forensic animation company The Evidence Room to create a 3D visual map of the moments before, during and after the shooting. Defence lawyers say it was never meant to be shown to the public.

"For the family, the airing of this footage constitutes a staggering breach of trust and an invasion of the family's privacy," said defence lawyer Brian Webber. "It has come to our attention that Channel Seven purchased this footage unlawfully. In addition, during our engagement with Channel Seven, we received an undertaking that they would not air any of the material before the end of the trial."

But Mark Llewellyn, executive producer of Channel Seven's Sunday Night programme, said the station "would not have run the footage if we thought we had obtained it illegally".

He claimed the story was run in Australia only and not made available to any other territory – although clips from the video can be found across the internet. Llewellyn did not comment on whether the station had paid for the footage nor on claims that the station had agreed not to show the footage until after the trial.

The video is yet to be raised in court today, although the prosecution has been questioning defence witness Professor Wayne Derman about Pistorius's ability to run without his prosthetics.

Derman, the team doctor for South Africa's Paralympians, is believed to be the last defence witness in the trial.

Pistorius's reaction on night of shooting was 'understandable'

3 July

Oscar Pistorius made an "understandable" decision to approach what he believed to be a dangerous intruder on the night he shot Reeva Steenkamp, a doctor has told the court.

Professor Elton Wayne Derman, a professor of sport and exercise medicine at the University of Cape Town, said the athlete was always more likely to choose fight over flight in response to a perceived attack because of his "significant disability".

Pistorius says he accidentally shot his girlfriend on 14 February 2013 fearing there was a dangerous intruder behind his toilet door. But the prosecution has questioned how it was possible that Pistorius "felt vulnerable" yet rushed "towards danger".

Today, Derman told the court that the part of Pistorius's brain that initiates the automatic fight or flight response, the amygdala, would kick in when faced with a perceived danger.

"The individual has no lower legs so to flee is not an option and if one finds oneself without the ability to flee, the other option is to fight," he said. "So to approach the danger in this [situation] is an understandable physiological phenomenon."

In a heated exchange, Nel claimed Derman could not be seen as an objective expert because he has treated Pistorius in the past as a doctor, but Derman pointed out that he was under oath and could only tell the truth.

The findings of psychologist Jonathan Scholtz, who conducted the athlete's 30-day mental health evaluation, also supports this part of Derman's testimony, reports South African news channel eNCA.

"When Mr Pistorius's appraisal of the situation is that he might be physically threatened, a fear response follows that might seem extraordinary when viewed from the perspective of a normal-bodied person, but normal in the context of a disabled person with his history," wrote Scholtz.

Derman also described Pistorius as a "paradox", whose sporting triumphs contrast with the daily limitations he endures. "You've got a paradox of an individual who is supremely able, and you've got an individual who is significantly disabled," he told the court. 

Oscar Pistorius: clinical care needed to reduce suicide risk

2 July

Oscar Pistorius was "severely traumatised" by the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and needs "proper clinical care" to reduce his risk of committing suicide, a psychologist has said.

Defence lawyer Barrie Roux read out a summary of the athlete's mental health evaluation today, confirming that his client is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive disorder.

"He is also mourning the loss of Ms Steenkamp," said the report. "Should he not receive proper clinical care, his condition is likely to worsen and increase the risks for suicide."

The report, compiled by Professor Jonathan Scholtz, head of psychology at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, said the double-amputee has a history of feeling insecure and vulnerable, especially without his prosthetic legs. It also said he did not show signs of narcissism or explosive rage, which is usually seen in men who are abusive to their partners, reports the BBC.

The court has already heard that Pistorius was not suffering from a mental disorder that would have affected his actions when he shot Steenkamp on 14 February 2013. The athlete claims he killed Steenkamp by accident, believing her to be a dangerous intruder.

Professor Elton Wayne Derman, a doctor who specialises in sports medicine and who treated Pistorius in the past, was testifying today. He told the court that Pistorius is an "anxious" individual who has a hand tremor and struggles to sleep.

A tweet from Arnu Fourie, a fellow Paralympian athlete, was also read out in court. Yesterday, prosecutor Gerrie Nel claimed Fourie had asked to move out of a bedroom he was sharing with Pistorius during the London Games because Pistorius argued on the phone all the time.

But Fourie yesterday said that he had asked to sleep alone only for two nights before the 100m final. "It was one of the most important races of my life and I wanted to rest and recover well on my own time in preparation for the race," he said. "I cherish all the moments we shared at the London Games."

Oscar Pistorius had planned Manchester trip for Reeva

1 July

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp were in a "loving and caring relationship" with plans to travel to Brazil and Manchester, according to the athlete's manager.

Peet van Zyl told the court that the couple called each other pet names and that Steenkamp was the first of his girlfriends ever to be invited on a professional trip with him overseas.

Pistorius wanted Steenkamp to "see what my world is about" and had asked for an additional business-class ticket for her to join him for athletics meetings in Manchester and Brazil, said Van Zyl.

He added that Steenkamp was "very excited" when he and Pistorius told her the news via video call, just a week before she was shot.

Pistorius sat with his head in his hands as he listened to his manager describe his plans to take Steenkamp to an Andrea Bocelli concert in Tuscany, reports The Guardian.

Van Zyl revealed that the athlete had planned to retire from athletics in 2017 with the strong financial position he had built after London 2012.

The manager said he could only remember two occasions when the athlete lost his temper: once at an airport in Barcelona in 2009 when the athlete was called a "cheat" for wanting to race against able-bodied athletes and another occasion during an interview with the BBC in London.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began his cross-examination today, suggesting that Pistorius's need to show Steenkamp "his world" was perhaps to resolve issues that they had been arguing about.

The prosecutor questioned Van Zyl about a report that South African paralympian Arnu Fourie asked to move out of the bedroom he was sharing with Pistorius during the Olympics because Pistorius argued on the phone all the time. Van Zyl said he was not there, but was told that there were issues between the two athletes.

Nel is expected to continue his cross-examination tomorrow.

Oscar Pistorius: judge's concern over mysterious missing cord

30 June

Police officers who sealed off the crime scene at Oscar Pistorius's house have been ordered to explain how a significant piece of evidence went missing from his bedroom.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux told the court today that an electrical extension cord had disappeared while under police watch.

The cord was used by prosecutor Gerrie Nel earlier in the trial as evidence to support his claim that Pistorius was lying about his version of events.

The athlete claimed he was bringing in two fans from the balcony when Steenkamp quietly disappeared to the toilet without him realising. He said he then heard a noise in the bathroom and, believing it to be a dangerous intruder, opened fire on the toilet door.

But after pressing Pistorius on exactly where he had placed the fans in the bedroom, Nel revealed that the extension cord would not have reached that far.

Today, Judge Thokozile Masipa appeared to be "extremely angry" that the evidence had gone missing, reports the Daily Telegraph. "It's very strange," she told the court. "[The police] locked the house each day. It was in their possession. I'm very concerned."

She has backed the defence's request for an investigation and affidavit from the officer in charge of securing Pistorius's house.

Earlier in the day, Nel summarised the results of Pistorius's mental health evaluation, which stated that he did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have affected his actions on the night he shot Steenkamp.

Two defence witnesses also appeared in court today. First up was Dr Gerald Versfeld, the orthopaedic surgeon who amputated the athlete's legs. He emphasised Pistorius's vulnerability and unsteadiness without his prosthetic limbs. Prosecutor Nel used his testimony to suggest that the athlete's version of events, in which he ran back to his bedroom on his stumps, could not be true.

The second witness of the day, Ivan Lin, an acoustic expert, said it was "unlikely" that a scream from Pistorius's toilet could be heard "audibly and intelligibly" from 170m away. This casts doubt on the testimony of one neighbour, Michelle Burger, who insisted that she heard a woman screaming for help on the night of the shooting. Lin suggests it would not be possible to distinguish between a male and female from that far away.

Several police blunders have already emerged in the trial. One of the athlete's watches appears to have been stolen, while one officer handled the firearm without protective gloves and other evidence was moved around the crime scene.

Oscar Pistorius not mentally ill when he shot Reeva

30 June

Oscar Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have affected his actions on the night he shot Reeva Steenkamp, a psychiatric assessment has found. As the athlete's trial resumed in Pretoria today, the basic results of his 30-day mental health evaluation were announced in court by prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Pistorius "did not suffer from a mental illness or defect that would have rendered him criminally not responsible" when he killed his girlfriend on 14 February 2013 and he was "capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act", said the prosecutor. 

 

 

Oscar Pistorius: psychiatrist's heart attack delays report

27 June

The handover of Oscar Pistorius's mental health evaluation has been delayed after one of his psychiatrists had a heart attack.

Four experts, including three psychiatrists and one psychologist, were appointed to evaluate the athlete over a 30-day period at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital.

According to South African news channel eNCA, the psychologist's report was handed over to the prosecution and defence this morning. But the psychiatrists' joint report was delayed after Dr Leon Fine suffered a heart attack last night. Fine still needs to sign off the report, which has been unanimously agreed. Nevertheless, it is still expected to be handed over later today.

The document is expected to say whether or not Pistorius was able to appreciate the difference between right and wrong when he shot Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February 2013.

It also examines whether he has a generalised anxiety disorder and whether that disorder could have resulted in so-called "diminished capacity".

Fine is a psychiatrist appointed on behalf of the defence with a speciality in anxiety syndromes and has "extensive experience" in giving evidence in court, according to South Africa's Daily Maverick magazine.

The other two psychiatrists are Dr Herman Pretorius and Dr Carla Kotze, both appointed by the court. Professor Jonathan Scholtz, head of psychology at Weskoppies, is the fourth member of the panel.

Oscar Pistorius: seven key quotes from the murder trial

20 June

The Oscar Pistorius trial, which is expected to resume in Pretoria in just over a week, has had its fair share of dramatic moments. After all the tears and accusations, Judge Thokozile Masipa will soon have to decide the athlete's fate. The prosecution claims Pistorius intentionally killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, while the Paralympian insists he mistook her for a dangerous intruder and "did not intend to kill Reeva or anyone else". With the courtroom drama soon due to resume, here are seven key quotes from the trial so far: 

Oscar Pistorius: "I didn't have time to think, I discharged my firearm."

The ultimate question for Judge Masipa is what Pistorius was thinking when he opened fire. According to the athlete, he was thinking nothing at all. This claim suggests that his line of defence has changed from putative self defence, where the accused uses what he believes to be reasonable means to defend himself against a genuinely held fear of attack, to an involuntary defence, where his mind does not control his behaviour.

Michelle Burger: "It was bloodcurdling screams."

Pistorius's neighbour Michelle Burger was among several witnesses who claimed they heard a woman scream around the time Steenkamp was killed.  The prosecution says this shows that Pistorius knew Steenkamp was behind the toilet door when he opened fire. However, the athlete insists that he was the one screaming, first at the "intruder" to get out of his house and then again when he realised he had killed Steenkamp.

Reeva Steenkamp: "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me."

The court spent many hours examining WhatsApp messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp. The vast majority portrayed a "normal" and "loving" relationship, but a handful of messages painted a less happy picture. Particularly difficult for the defence was a message from Steenkamp claiming that she was "scared" of Pistorius and upset about his "jealous tantrums". The prosecution claims the message adds weight to its theory that Steenkamp had fled to the toilet and locked herself in because she was scared after an argument with Pistorius.

Oscar Pistorius: "It's not as soft as brains but f*** it's a zombie stopper."

Pistorius was heard saying these words on video showing him firing at a watermelon at a shooting range with "zombie-stopper" bullets, expanding ammunition designed to cause maximum tissue damage. The video, first uncovered by Sky News, was presented unexpectedly by the prosecution as part of its attempt to portray Pistorius as a reckless gun-lover. Pistorius said he regretted saying the words and insisted he was referring to zombies and not humans

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel: "Your version is not only untruthful but it's so improbable that it cannot be reasonably, possibly true."

The prosecution has repeatedly branded Pistorius's account far-fetched. The most "improbable" part of his story, said Nel, is that Steenkamp never uttered a word from the toilet before she was shot. The athlete said he presumed she kept quiet because she was "terrified", but Nel said the "only reasonable explanation" was that Steenkamp was standing, facing the door, talking to him and that he shot her knowing who he was aiming at. 

Oscar Pistorius: "I wake up and I can smell blood"

The emotional state of Pistorius has attracted much attention throughout the trial. He has repeatedly cried, vomited and broken down, forcing the court to adjourn on several occasions. On the first day of giving evidence, he said he still has "terrible nightmares" about what happened. "I wake up and I can smell blood and I wake up to being terrified," he said. "I hear a noise and I wake up in a complete state of terror, to the point that I would rather not sleep."

Dr Merryll Vorster: "It is my opinion, m'lady, that Mr Pistorius has an anxiety disorder."

It was this statement from defence witness Dr Merryll Vorster that prompted the judge to send Pistorius for a 30-day mental health evaluation. The athlete is currently at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, where a panel of experts are determining whether his state of mind played a part in the shooting on Valentine's Day last year. The results could mean a shorter prison sentence for Pistorius if he is convicted or it could mean he has fewer grounds for appeal.

Oscar Pistorius: how will psychiatric results affect his trial?

6 June

Oscar Pistorius could be committed to a mental institution against his will if experts decide that he was "mentally incapacitated" when he shot Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete is currently being assessed by three psychiatrists and one psychologist at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital to determine his mental state when he fired at his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year.

Judge Thokozile Masipa sent him for the 30-day evaluation after defence witness Dr Merryll Vorster diagnosed him with "generalised anxiety disorder". The results could mean a shorter prison sentence for Pistorius if he is convicted or it could mean he has fewer grounds for appeal. Either way, the outcome is likely to have a big impact on how the trial will proceed. Here are the findings available to the experts who will report back to the court...

Pistorius was 'mentally incapacitated'

In theory, the expert panel could decide Pistorius was "mentally incapacitated" when he shot Steenkamp, meaning that he was unable to control his actions because of an underlying mental disorder. In this case, the trial would end and Pistorius would be committed to a mental institution against his will until he is found not to be a danger, reports CNN.

Pistorius had 'diminished capacity'

Professor Stephen Tucson, a criminal barrister in Johannesburg, tells the Daily Telegraph, that the experts are more likely to look at whether Pistorius has a disorder that "diminished" his capacity for criminal responsibility. In that case, the trial would resume, and the experts' finding would be taken into consideration during sentencing if he were found guilty. This would be the favoured option for the defence as it would mean Pistorius might be judged less harshly.  While murder and premeditated murder have mandatory jail terms, the sentencing for culpable homicide is discretionary, varying from fines to prison time of up to 15 years. For Pistorius to be convicted of the lesser charge of culpable homicide, Judge Masipa would have to believe that Pistorius did not plan or intend to commit murder but that he "negligently" killed Steenkamp.

Pistorius had no mental health problems

Alternatively, the experts might decide that Pistorius's mental health was not an issue at all and the court could therefore disregard the evidence of Dr Vorster. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel is likely to be rooting for this option, as it would mean Pistorius could not use his mental state as a defence or a mitigating factor in sentencing. Part of the reason Nel called for the evaluation in the first place was that he feared the defence could later use Pistorius's mental state to appeal against any conviction. A full state evaluation that gives him a clean bill of health would make this much more difficult.

Oscar Pistorius: what is he doing at Weskoppies hospital? 

3 June

As Oscar Pistorius undergoes a second week of assessment at Pretoria's Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, more details have emerged about his 30-day mental health evaluation. The Reeva Steenkamp murder trial was suspended last month after an expert witness for the defence diagnosed Pistorius with 'generalised anxiety disorder'. Judge Thokozile Masipa then sent the athlete to Weskoppies, where a panel of experts are determining whether his state of mind played a part in the shooting of Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. Four specialists will have to decide whether Pistorius was criminally responsible for the shooting and if he fired his gun despite knowing right from wrong.

What is Oscar Pistorius doing day to day?

Pistorius is being treated as an outpatient, which means he can return home each evening. He is expected to arrive at Weskoppies at 9am every day and stay until 4pm, or until he is excused.

It is likely to be an "emotionally taxing" few weeks, according to Carly Abramovitz, a clinical psychologist who has worked at the hospital. The first day is usually "relatively simple", she says, with the experts getting to know their patient and explaining how the process works. After that, the panel will conduct lengthy interviews to obtain Pistorius's full life history, his family background, and his criminal and psychiatric history. Other assessments include personality tests, neuropsychological tests, tests for malingering (the technical term for faking a mental illness) and general cognitive tests that evaluate each and every cognitive process from intelligence to memory. Abramovitz tells Eye Witness News that the panel is likely to make Pistorius recall the moment of the shooting so they can work out whether he was in a "particularly heightened state of anxiety". Abramovitz describes it as an "extremely rigorous process" with experts observing him during "every single minute of every procedure".

Ivan de Klerk, a forensic psychologist, told South Africa's Times newspaper that forensic psychologists do not adopt a warm bedside manner. "A counsellor is empathetic and subjective, but in a forensic observation a psychiatrist wants to get to the truth," he said. "There is no way it would be possible to fake a condition for 30 days." 

What is Weskoppies like?

Weskoppies is one of the biggest and oldest psychiatric institutions in South Africa. Located next to an industrial area in the west of Pretoria, it consists of many one-storey buildings in a "large, almost farm-like, setting", reports eNCA. It is "extremely quiet" and its patients and activities are not visible to visitors, says the news channel. "It is neither modern nor luxurious and has a bare, functional quality to it."

The hospital caters to a large variety of patients, with mental illnesses ranging from depression, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorders to schizophrenia. On the morning of Pistorius's first day, one female patient apparently asked reporters to film her message to Pistorius to "be strong". She told reporters: "I love him". However, there were apparently no takers and she "walked dejectedly back into the hospital", reported The Times.

Court-ordered cases make up just a portion of patients at Weskoppies. Former high-profile patients include 'Modimolle Monster' Johan Kotze who was convicted last year for murder, rape, kidnapping and assault, and 'Advocate Barbie' Cezanne Visser, who was sent to jail in 2010 for molesting children with her former lover. 

Who is evaluating Oscar Pistorius?

Four experts have been appointed, including three psychiatrists and one psychologist:

Dr Herman Pretorius is one of two Weskoppies psychiatrists appointed by the court. In a previous high-profile case he was tasked with assessing a prisoner who slit two nurses’ throats. Pretorius testified that the accused knew right from wrong when he attacked his victims. 

Dr Carla Kotze is the second Weskoppies psychiatrist appointed by the court. In 2012, she was asked to evaluate a man accused of decapitating his victim in a graveyard, stripping his face from his head and cutting off some of his limbs. Kotze declared that the accused could understand right from wrong and he was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison.

Dr Leon Fine has been appointed on behalf of the defence. He is a psychiatrist with a speciality in anxiety syndromes and has “extensive experience” in giving evidence in court, according to South Africa's Daily Maverick magazine. 

Professor Jonathan Scholtz is head of psychology at Weskoppies and a professor at the University of Pretoria. He testified in the 'Advocate Barbie' case, diagnosing Cezanne Visser with battered woman syndrome. Visser was released on appeal just three years into her seven-year prison sentence.

When will the Oscar Pistorius trial resume?

The court is expected to resume on 30 June to hear the results of the evaluation.

  

Oscar Pistorius has anxiety disorder, says psychiatrist

12 May

OSCAR PISTORIUS has an anxiety disorder, according to a forensic psychiatrist, and may have to undergo a mental health assessment at a state hospital.

Dr Merryll Vorster has told the Pretoria court that the amputation of the athlete's lower legs as baby, his family's heightened fear of crime, his parents' divorce and his mother's death when he was 14 led to a generalised anxiety disorder.

The removal of his legs when he was unable to understand what was going on would have been perceived as a "traumatic assault", she said. His father was "an irresponsible and absent" parent, while his mother "abused alcohol intermittently" and slept with a gun under pillow. Her children were not "soothed" and developed anxiety, she said.

Vorster described Pistorius's emotional reactions as "genuine". The athlete has cried, retched and vomited during the trial, in which he is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

"If one had to feign retching one would develop a hoarse voice, red in the face. He was pale and sweating," said Vorster. "This is difficult to feign."

The psychiatrist said that Pistorius's reaction to the "perceived threat" on the night of the shooting "should be considered in light of his physical disability and his anxiety disorder".

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued the defendant's mental health should be examined more fully at a state hospital – a move that could delay the trial for up to a month, reports Sky News.

However, the defence has said it would oppose the application, arguing that the diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder did not mean Pistorius was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.

Vorster also talked about the flight/fight response, saying Pistorius was more likely to respond to any threat with "fight" rather than "flight" because his capacity for flight is limited.

In a statement that may later prove difficult for the defence, Vorster agreed with the prosecution that by arming himself and approaching the danger Pistorius must have foreseen the possibility of shooting.

The defence team was due to wrap up its case on Tuesday, but is now likely to go on until the end of the week, as the prosecution has taken longer than planned to cross-examine witnesses.

Oscar Pistorius: Reeva's last moments disputed in court

9 May

A BALLISTICS expert testifying at the trial of Oscar Pistorius has cast doubt on the prosecution’s account of Reeva Steenkamp’s final moments.

Tom “Wollie” Wolmarans, a former police forensics expert and witness for the defence, faced an aggressive cross-examination from prosecutor Gerrie Nel today, reports The Guardian.

The state maintains that Pistorius shot his girlfriend Steenkamp following an argument, while the Paralympian says he mistook her for a dangerous intruder.

Today Wolmarans said he believes Steenkamp was standing close behind the toilet door when the first two bullets hit her hip and arm. He believes she was falling as she was hit by a subsequent bullet that caused her fatal head wound.

His version of events differs to that given by Captain Christiaan Mangena, a ballistics expert for the prosecution. Mangena said Steenkamp was standing in the toilet cubicle when she was hit in the right hip, but believed she fell to the floor and was then hit in the arm and head as she crossed her arms over her head to protect herself.

The prosecution’s account would suggest that Pistorius paused between the shots and may have heard Steenkamp scream before firing the final, fatal bullet – whereas Wolmarans claims the shots were fired in quick succession.

In a dramatic exchange, Nel asked Wolmarans if he had changed details of his report after discussing the case with Roger Dixon, another defence witness who testified before the Easter break. Wolmarans admitted that he and Dixon had gone for a beer together but said he would not have altered his own report on Dixon's advice because Dixon was not a ballistics expert. “I never lied to a court,” he told the judge.

Wolmarans, who at one point stepped inside the court’s reconstructed toilet cubicle to demonstrate Steenkamp’s position, said the state’s explanation for an injury on the victim’s back also “does not make sense”. The prosecution claims the injury was caused by a ricochet bullet, but Wolmarans says it would have occurred when she fell backwards onto a wooden magazine rack.  

Oscar Pistorius: six questions for Judge Masipa

1 May

AS the Oscar Pistorius trial takes a two-week break, Judge Thokozile Masipa is likely to reflect on what she had heard over the last seven weeks. The prosecution has called all of its witnesses and Pistorius has spent seven days in the witness stand. The defence still has more than a dozen witnesses to call before Judge Masipa will have to decide whether Pistorius deliberately murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

Here are five questions she will have to take into consideration:

Has Pistorius ‘tailored’ his testimony?

The prosecution has accused Pistorius of “tailoring” his evidence, although the athlete argued that these were genuine mistakes. For example, in his bail statement, Pistorius said he “went onto the balcony” to retrieve a fan but in court he said he did not go fully out onto the balcony. He initially said he “whispered” to Steenkamp to get down and call the police, but later denied whispering and said he spoke in a “low tone”. The judge will have to decide if these are reasonable mistakes to make or whether, as prosecutor Gerrie Nel argues, Pistorius was “thinking of something that never happened” and struggling to “keep up with an untruth”.

Is Pistorius’s version of events even possible?

The athlete struggled to explain why some parts of his testimony contradicted the state’s evidence. Pathologist Gert Saayman said Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death, around the time a neighbour heard an argument at the house. Pistorius, who claimed they were both asleep at that time, admitted: “I don't have an explanation for it.” The judge will have to decide if it is possible that Steenkamp got out of bed and went to the toilet without Pistorius hearing or seeing her go, while Nel says the most "improbable" part of the athlete’s story is that Steenkamp never uttered a word from the toilet before she was shot.

How reliable is the police evidence?

The prosecution has used police crime scene photographs to suggest that Pistorius’s story is a lie. If his duvet was on the bedroom floor, as it is in one photograph, the athlete would struggle to convince the court he thought Steenkamp was in bed. The prosecution claims he could not have later ran out onto the balcony for help as there is a fan in the way and that the curtains are open in his room, despite Pistorius claiming he had closed them before he heard a noise in the bathroom. However, the defence has proven that the police moved items around in the house that night and Pistorius insists that his bedroom was not how he left it.

Did Pistorius and Steenkamp argue before the shooting?

Police IT expert Captain Francois Moller told the court he examined thousands of text messages sent between Steenkamp and Pistorius, of which 90 per cent showed a "loving, normal" relationship. However, a small number portrayed Pistorius as a controlling and jealous boyfriend. In one message, sent a few weeks before her death, Steenkamp wrote: “I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me.” Nevertheless, in Steenkamp’s Valentine’s Day card to Pistorius, which he opened after her death, she declared her love for him for the first time. Neighbours say they heard a woman’s screams before the sound of gunshots, but Pistorius strenuously denies they had been arguing. Masipa will have to decide if it is possible that the witnesses mistook Pistorius’s terrified shouts and screams for that of a woman.

Is Pistorius's emotional state an act?

The Paralympian has wept, retched and held his head in his hands for much of the trial, causing the court to adjourn on more than one occasion. Asked by the prosecution why he was being so emotional, he said he was “traumatised” by the night when he lost the person that he cared about. Others have accused him of playing up his distress, and one journalist has accused him of having been coached by a professional actor. Jani Allen, a British-born journalist wrote an open letter to the athlete in which she said: "I have it from a reliable source that you are taking acting lessons for your days in court." She gave no specific details and a spokeswoman for the Pistorious family dismissed the claims as fictitious. Masipa will have to consider Nel’s accusation that the athlete was using his emotions to dodge difficult questions during the cross-examination, although the judge herself pointed out: “He has been emotional throughout.”

If Pistorius believed Steenkamp was an intruder, did he act reasonably?

Even if the judge believes that Pistorius thought Steenkamp was an intruder, he could still face a murder conviction. Pistorius insists that he fired the gun “without thinking” but the state’s ballistics evidence suggests there was a pause in between some of the shots. Pistorius initially told the court he had “aimed” at the bathroom door, but later said he did not. The judge will have to decide if Pistorius: planned to kill before firing the gun, which could amount to premeditated murder; intended to kill as he fired the shots, which could amount to murder; or whether he acted negligently, which could amount to culpable homicide.

Oscar Pistorius: family denies athlete took acting lessons

23 April

THE family of Oscar Pistorius has denied that the Paralympian received acting training before giving evidence at his murder trial, where he has denied deliberately killing his girlfriend Reeva Steencamp.

Pistorius has broken down several times during the course of the trial and proceedings have been halted at key moments.

The athlete denies the charge of murder, saying that he believed an intruder had broken into his home when he shot Steenkamp dead through a locked toilet door.

Pistorius vomited when photos of Steencamp's body were shown in court, and several sessions were disrupted due to the athlete's distress. But now some have "questioned his sincerity", reports the Daily Telegraph.

In an open letter to the athlete, South African columnist Jani Allan said that she had been told by "a reliable source" that Pistorius received acting training ahead of his testimony.

A spokeswoman for the Pistorius family said in a statement that the claims were "devoid of the truth".

"We deny that our client has undergone any 'acting lessons' or any form of emotional coaching," said Anneliese Burgess, media manager for the Pistorius family.

"This type of comment makes a mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family," the statement adds.

The trial has been adjourned until 5 May. Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux is expected to call between 14 and 17 witnesses.

Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva 'had no time to scream'

17 April

THE defence witness who said Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp four times in quick succession was accused of being unqualified to offer an opinion during the athlete’s murder trial in Pretoria today.

Roger Dixon, a forensics specialist, had contradicted a police ballistics expert who said last week that Pistorius paused between firing the first and second shots.

The dispute is significant because the prosecution claims that Steenkamp screamed out between shots and that Pistorius therefore knew he was firing at her. The athlete denies deliberately killing his girlfriend, saying he believed an intruder had broken into his bathroom.

“Mr Dixon's testimony challenges the state's version that Ms Steenkamp would have had time to scream after the first bullet and that Mr Pistorius then changed aim and continued firing,” the BBC said.

“Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream followed by gun shots, but the defence disputes their testimony, saying the only scream came from Mr Pistorius – after he had fired.”

In response, prosecutor Gerrie Nel repeatedly questioned Dixon’s credentials as an expert witness.

“In cross-examination, Mr Dixon admitted he did not have sufficient expertise in some areas in which he was testifying, including ballistics, blood spatter, sound and visibility tests,” the Independent reports.

"You see how irresponsible it is to make inferences in areas where you’re not an expert," Nel told him. "It’s irresponsible, am I right?"

The trial has now been adjourned until May 5.

Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva 'in rush to leave after argument'

15 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS was today accused of arming himself with the “sole purpose” of killing Reeva Steenkamp as she spoke to him from the locked toilet cubicle. The claims were made by prosecutor Gerrie Nel as he summed up his cross-examination.

The athlete has now stepped down from the witness box after five days of tough questioning. Nel, nicknamed 'The Pit Bull', this morning claimed Steenkamp was in a rush to leave the house after the couple argued on 14 February last year. Pistorius denied the accusation, insisting that he mistook her for a dangerous intruder when he fired four shots into the toilet door. The Paralympian also revealed the contents of a Valentine’s Day card written by Steenkamp before she died.

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

2.00pm: Roger Dixon, a forensic geologist, has spent the afternoon giving evidence, some of which contradicts that put forward by the prosecution.

  • Dixon tells the judge that he visited Pistorius’s bedroom and confirms that with the lights off he “could not see anything at all” even his hand in front of his face. The toilet light was not working, he says, and the blue LED light on the athlete's amplifier was too weak to illuminate anything.
  • The forensics expert says that fibres found on the toilet door are consistent with Pistorius's socks, supporting the athlete’s claim that he attempted to kick the door down with his prostheses. The prosecution claimed Pistorius was on his stumps at this point. Dixon also points out that other marks on the door suggest the police walked on the door when it was taken down to be examined.
  • Dixon suggests the vertical bruises on Steenkamp’s back were caused by bullet ricochet, not from the magazine rack in the toilet, which contradicts the evidence of Captain Chris Mangena, the prosecution's ballistics expert.

10.50am: Roux asks Pistorius to read the Valentine’s Day card he received from Reeva on the night she was killed. The envelope says “Ozzy” with hearts on it. The outside of the card says “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Inside it says: “I think today's a good day to tell you that I love you.” Roux finishes his re-examination.

The judge and her assessors ask a few more questions. Pistorius confirms that his toilet light was not working and that Steenkamp had access to his alarm controls. He then steps down as a witness.

10.40am: Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux has begun his re-examination. He asks Pistorius what he means when he talks about an “accident”? Pistorius says: “I meant the situation as a whole. It wasn't meant to be.” Roux asks him if he “consciously” pulled the trigger. Pistorius says no.

The athlete is again asked to describe the emotions he felt before he fired the gun. “Terrified,” he says. “I feared for my life. I was scared, I was thinking about what could happen to me and to Reeva, I was just extremely fearful, overcome with a sense of terror and vulnerability.”

Roux shows the court a police photograph, taken shortly after the one showing Steenkamp’s jeans inside out on Pistorius’s bedroom floor. This one shows Steenkamp’s jeans no longer inside out. Pistorius also confirms that he did not have access to any witness statements, including police statements, before he gave his initial bail affivdavit.

9.55am: Nel sums up his cross-examination, telling Pistorius that his version is “not only untruthful, it is so improbable that it cannot be reasonably, probably true”. Nel says that based on the objective facts and the circumstantial evidence, the court will find - as an only reasonable inference - that:

  • Reeva ate two hours before Pistorius shot and killed her.
  • While Reeva was awake and eating, neighbour Estelle van der Merwe heard an argument.
  • Four other neighbours heard Reeva’s "bloodcurdling" screams as she escaped from Pistorius.
  • Pistorius shot four shots through the toilet door, knowing that Reeva was in there.
  • Pistorius knew that she was talking to him. She was locked in the toilet and he armed himself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her.
  • Afterwards, Pistorius was overcome by what he had done because he intended to kill her.

Pistorius denied all of the accusations, except that he was "overcome" by what he had done, but not because he had intended to kill her.

9.50am:The prosecution repeatedly asks Pistorius who should be blamed for him having shot Reeva. The athlete says he believed there was a threat on his life, but says he does not blame anyone. Nel asks: “Who should we blame for the black talon rounds that ripped through her body?” The judge objects that this is the same question and Nel subsequently changes the question to “Why did you have black talon ammunition?” Pistorius says: “It is the type of ammunition used for my firearm.”

9.30am: The prosecution turns to the phone call between Pistorius and security guard Pieter Baba after the shooting. Baba has previously told the court that he called Pistorius and was told “everything is fine”. However, the phone records showed that Pistorius first called Baba. Nel today suggests that Pistorius rang security by mistake and then told Baba “everything is fine” because he did not want security there. The Paralympian says he cannot remember speaking to him but this would not make sense as he had already called Johan Stander, who was involved in the administration of the estate, and medical assistance company Netcare to ask for help

9.10am: Nel shows the court a photograph of the toilet, including a large puddle of blood, taken by police just after the shooting. He asks Pistorius to explain exactly where Steenkamp was found. The athlete says Reeva was sitting on the floor to the right of the toilet (see below), where the magazine rack is in the picture, with her head on her shoulder.

Nel asks why Pistorius was screaming before he saw Steenkamp. “I was in a panic,” says the athlete. Then the prosecutor asks would he not have been in a “greater panic” when he saw her in the toilet. “I didn't know what the purpose of screaming would be,” says Pistorius. “I was overcome with sadness, I was crying.” He adds: “When I saw Reeva there, I was broken.” 

9.00am: Pistorius is asked to make a swinging movement with the cricket bat against the toilet door in court. Previously, the state witness Colonel Johannes Vermeulen said Pistorius must have been on his stumps when he used a cricket bat to break down the toilet door. Pistorius shows the court how he hit the door. The athlete tells the court: “I am wearing prosthetic legs and this position is very comfortable.”

8.50am: Nel claims that it makes no sense for somebody as neat as Reeva to leave her jeans inside out on the floor, when all her other things were packed in her bag. Pistorius says she was already in her pyjamas when he got home. Nel suggests that it indicates that she had to take her jeans off “quickly” because of an argument and that she wanted to leave. Pistorius says this makes “no sense”, as she would not have taken off her own clothes and put on his if she hypothetically wanted to leave the house.

Oscar Pistorius scream: 'Get  the f*** out of my house'

14 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS claimed today that he screamed “Get the f*** out of my house” moments before he fired four shots through his toilet door. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has been chipping away at the athlete’s claim that he believed his girlfriend was a dangerous intruder when he shot four times through the closed toilet door on 14 February 2013.

Last week, Nel questioned why Pistorius would go towards danger rather than head for safety and why Steenkamp never once responded to his shouts and screams.

The prosecutor opened today’s proceedings with a promise to show the court that Pistorius was “tailoring his evidence”. He highlighted small differences between the athlete’s original bail affidavit, his evidence in chief and the testimony he has given under cross-examination. As Pistorius corrected Nel on a number of points, the prosecutor pointed out that the athlete was a “stickler for detail” and yet was being vague on many aspects of the case.

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

2.00pm: Nel asks why Pistorius did not check outside his bedroom when he was searching for Steenkamp after firing into the toilet door. Pistorius says this would have been a “strange” thing to do as it had already dawned on him that it may have been Steenkamp in the toilet.

“Why would you think it is Reeva?” asks Nel. “This is one of the crucial issues that makes your version totally improbable.” Nel suggests it was not "normal" for Pistorius to run back to the bathroom thinking he had shot Steenkamp while simultaneously believing there might be an intruder. Pistorius tells him: “Nothing was normal about that night.” The judge interrupts to say it is possible to think one thing and hope for another.

The prosecutor questions why Pistorius did not check for a ladder outside the bathroom window if he was still fearful of an intruder. When Pistorius says his “mind was on Reeva”, Nel accuses him of “adapting” his story as he goes. The prosecutor says it is implausible that Pistorius would run around the house with his gun still cocked. “I understand that it doesn't sound rational but I didn't have a rational state of mind,” says the athlete. Nel claims the gun was left in the bathroom after Pistorius “shot and killed Reeva”, but Pistorius insists: “That's incorrect.”

1.30pm: Nel again suggests that Steenkamp was talking to Pistorius when he shot her. If Reeva was scared of an intruder, why would she be standing, looking at the door, he asks. Pistorius says he does not know.

11.55am: Pistorius says he fired because he heard a “wood noise”, which he perceived to be the door opening. In retrospect, he says, it could have been the magazine rack moving. Nel says it was the sound of the magazine rack moving when Steenkamp fell down after the first shot. He suggests Pistorius heard this and then changed his aim, a version of events that would fit with the state's ballistics evidence. Pistorius denies the noise came after the first shot. 

11.05am: Nel focuses on the exact moment Pistorius fired his gun. The athlete again says he thought someone was coming out to attack him, he “did not have time to think” and was “terrified”. But the prosecutor questions if his defence is self-defence or involuntary action. “You are thinking every step of the way, but now in this critical instant, you didn't think?” asks Nel.

Pistorius denies firing to kill anybody and says he fired in the direction from where he thought the attack was happening. “You fired at Reeva,” says Nel. “That is not true,” says Pistorius, once more breaking down into tears. “I did not fire at Reeva.” The court adjourns again as the Paralympian begins coughing and retching.

10.45am: Nel is asking Pistorius why he is so emotional and suggests that he knowingly screamed "Get the f*** out of my house" to Steenkamp. The athlete denies this and tells the court again that he has been “traumatised” by the events in question and repeating the words reminded him of how he felt that night.

The prosecution says it “does not make sense” that Pistorius would first speak quietly to Reeva and then shout seconds later. Pistorius claims it was not until he was in the passage to the bathroom that he believed Steenkamp’s life would not be in danger if he shouted.

9.55am: Nel returns again to the moments just before the shooting. He asks Pistorius to describe what he was shouting. The athlete says he was shouting for the intruders to get out and for Reeva to call the police. When asked if he remembers exactly what he said, Pistorius says he does. “What did you shout?” asks Nel. There is a long pause, before he tells the court: “I screamed: ‘Get the f*** out of my house.’” His voice cracking and getting higher and higher, he repeats: “'Get the f*** out of my house.’” The court adjourns as Pistorius breaks down again.

9.30am: Nel again accuses Pistorius of “tailoring evidence”. He points out that the athlete initially said in his evidence in chief that he “whispered” to Steenkamp to get down and call the police when he first heard a noise in the bathroom. In cross-examination, he said this was not a “whisper” but a “low tone”. Pistorius says this was a mistake and denies tailoring his evidence.

9.20am: Nel points out blood splatter in a police photograph of Pistorius's bedroom. It is seen on the carpet and on the duvet that is seen on the floor. Pistorius has previously claimed the police must have taken the duvet off the bed and put it onto the floor. The athlete suggests that the blood spatter ended up on the duvet when it was on the bed. But Nel questions why it lines up with the blood spatter on the carpet. "Don't you want to admit that the duvet was on the floor?" asks Nel. Pistorius repeats that he does not remember the duvet being on the floor.

The prosecutor seizes the opportunity to question why Pistorius is now touching his eyes. The Paralympian tells the court that his eyes are sore. The judge interrupts to tell Nel that the defendent rubbed his eyes ten minutes ago and Nel drops the issue.

9.00am: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel begins today’s cross-examination by telling the court that Pistorius's version of events are “improbable” and “untrue”. He says that pathologist Gert Saayman’s evidence that Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death was "devastating" to Pistorius's case.

The Paralympian says it is a "possibility" but "highly improbable" that Steenkamp ate while he was asleep. Nel points out that the alarm would have been triggered if she had gone downstairs. Pistorius suggests she may have turned off the alarm, but Nel tells him the “objective set of facts cannot fit into your version”.

Oscar Pistorius told: 'You are getting deeper into trouble' 

11 April

THE Oscar Pistorius murder trial reached the "crux of the case" today as prosecutor Gerrie Nel took the court through the moments when Reeva Steenkamp was shot.

The 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic athlete, who denies deliberately killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year, has faced a week of tough cross-examination. Yesterday, he was portrayed as an egotist who was reckless with guns and who publicly humiliated Steenkamp on several occasions.

Today, the prosecution repeatedly questioned the plausibility of Pistorius’s version of events on the night of the shooting. Nel questioned why he would go towards danger rather than head for safety and why Steenkamp never once responded to his shouts and screams.

Nel said the "crux of the case" is what was going through Steenkamp’s head in the moments before she died. "You knew Reeva was behind the door and you shot at her," he told Pistorius. "That is the only thing that makes sense."

Here are the key moments from today’s cross-examination:

11.55am: Nel tells Pistorius that the most "improbable" part of his story is that Steenkamp never uttered a word from the toilet before she was shot. Pistorius says he presumes that she kept quiet because she was "terrified" and thought the danger was coming towards her. But Nel says the "only reasonable explanation" was that Steenkamp was standing, facing the door, talking to him and that he shot her knowing who he was aiming at. "She wasn't scared of anything, except you. She wasn't scared of an intruder. She was scared of you," he says.

Pistorius repeatedly denies Nel’s claims and says Steenkamp had been involved in a similar incident, where she locked herself away and was not able to speak to people for a day or so afterwards.

There is some confusion when Nel asks Pistorius if Steenkamp screamed after the first shot. Pistorius says categorically she did not, but then claims he misunderstood the question. He says: "The sound of the gunshot, you would not have heard anyone scream. I was screaming. I couldn’t hear my own voice."

Nel says that, for Steenkamp, being in that small cubicle when four shots were fired through the door must have been "horrific". He says that "what happened to her that night was unthinkable" and the "crux of the case" is what was going through Steenkamp's head in those moments, but he claims he has not heard Pistorius talk about it.

The athlete points out that he has already spoken about this in court today. "There are many times that I am haunted by what she thought in the last moments of her life," he adds. "Many, many times."

Pistorius is asked once again to describe the moment he opened fire. He says he thought he heard the door opening and he discharged the firearm. But Nel says: "You knew Reeva was behind the door and you shot at her. That is the only thing that makes sense."

11.40am: Nel questions why Pistorius "felt vulnerable" yet rushed "towards danger" on the night of Steenkamp's death. Pistorius claims he did not rush, but walked towards the bathroom with his gun to get as much distance as possible between Steenkamp, who he believed was in bed, and the "intruder", who he believed was in the bathroom.

Nel questions why he did not try to take Steenkamp to safety through the main bedroom door. Pistorius says he cannot comment on hypothetical events. "It's very easy to look back and look at all the possibilities but that is not what happened," he says. Pistorius says he was shouting and screaming to Steenkamp to call the police and to the "intruder" to get out of the house. Pistorius tells the court: "My version has stayed the same. The state's version has chaged many times, but my version has not changed."

Pistorius makes another mistake in his evidence. After saying it had sounded as if the "intruder" may have kicked the toilet door, he tells the court: "I never, ever said somebody kicked the door." After Nel points out the mistake, Pistorius apologises. "You are thinking of something that never happened and you have to keep up," says Nel. "You have to keep up with an untruth." The prosecutor tells him that his mistakes appear "as convincing as his evidence" in the way that they are delivered.

10.10am: The court returns to the night of Steenkamp’s death. Nel is again trying to find out how Pistorius failed to see Steenkamp leave the bedroom to go to the toilet. He suggests that a blue LCD light from the athlete’s amplifier would have “illuminated” the area. Pistorius says he could only see the silhouette of a pair of Reeva’s jeans about a metre away. It was as he went to put the jeans over the light that he heard a window sliding and hitting the frame in the bathroom.

Nel again shows the court a photograph of the bedroom taken later that morning by police, in which the duvet is on the floor. Pistorius says the duvet was not where he left it but the jeans were roughly in the right area. Nel points out that the jeans are on top of the duvet. Pistorius repeats that the police may have moved the items in the room. “Why would police do that? You're lying,” says Nel. “I don't know why the police did that. I can't explain that. I wasn't there,” says Pistorius.

Pistorius’s defence lawyer objects, asking for evidence that the jeans are actually on top of the duvet, as the photograph is not clear. The judge agrees that the photograph should be blown up and tells Nel to mind his language. “You don't call a witness a liar while he is in the witness box,” she says. The court adjourns for a tea break.

9.45am: Nel asks about an incident in which Pistorius claims he was shot at on a motorway, and asks why he did not report the matter to the police. The athlete says he did not have “trust” in the police that they would be able to do anything about it. Nel also suggests that Pistorius goes “looking for trouble” and that a confrontation may have led to him being assaulted in 2012. Pistorius denies this and points out that he had his firearm with him when he was assaulted, but did not use it.

9.15am: Nel is asking Pistorius about the security precautions he took at his home at the Silverwoods Estate. The athlete confirms that he felt it was safe enough to leave his cars outside, did not immediately fix a broken window downstairs in his home and did not regularly check with security about the safety of the estate.

Nel accuses Pistorius of “tailoring” his evidence with regard to contractors removing sensors to paint his house, something Pistorius denies. "You are getting deeper into trouble Mr Pistorius. You are tailoring your evidence,” says Nel. Pistorius then says he deactivated his alarm on 14 February last year when he ran downstairs to open his front door in order to carry Steenkamp out to get help. However, he later says he “must have” turned off his alarm but cannot remember. Again Nel tells him he is tailoring evidence.

Pistorius grows tearful as he apologises for making a mistake and says he is tired. Judge Thokozile Masipa interrupts to ask if Pistorius is too tired to proceed, warning him that he could be at a disadvantage if he is making mistakes due to tiredness. Pistorius confirms that he is not too tired to continue and that he is not making mistakes because he is tired.

9.00am: Nel begins questioning Pistorius about his experience as a victim of crime. Pistorius has previously claimed he kept his firearm under his bed at night because he has been a victim of violence and burglaries. Today, the athlete admits that he has never gone into a police station to report a crime. He says he did not think anything could be done by police after his home was burgled and he was shot at on a motorway.

Pistorius tells the court that he moved into the Silverwoods Estate in Pretoria, where Steenkamp was killed, in May 2008. Nel asks if it is correct that he has never been a victim of crime at Silverwoods. That is correct, confirms Pistorius. “Except for the police stealing my watches,” he adds.

Oscar Pistorius's claims about night of shooting 'improbable'

10 April

THE claims made by Oscar Pistorius about the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp have been described today as “so improbable" that no one would ever think they were true.

The athlete faced a third day of brutal cross-examination from prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who repeatedly accused him of lying and attempted to portray him as a reckless egotist, who would blame anybody but himself.

The 27-year-old Paralympian, known as the Blade Runner, faces life imprisonment if convicted of deliberately murdering the 29-year-old model on Valentine’s Day last year. Steenkamp’s mother, June, has said she does not "care what happens to Oscar", even if he goes free. She told the Daily Mirror in an interview published today: "All I know is that he has to stand up to what he’s done and – if he has to – pay for it... I don’t need revenge, just the truth.”

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

1.40pm: The prosecution is asking Pistorius how it is possible that he did not see Steenkamp get out of bed to go to the toilet on the night of the shooting. Pistorius describes how he woke up, took two fans in from the balcony and shut the doors and curtains. Nel asks if it is not “strange” that he failed to see Steenkamp. “It was pitch black and it was behind me so it is not strange at all,” says Pistorius. He suggests that without his legs, he was also at a height where the fans were blowing near his face.

Nel shows the court a police photograph of Pistorius's bedroom, in which a large fan is in front of the balcony doors (see below). This would make it difficult for Pistorius to have rushed out onto the balcony to scream for help later on in the night, as he has previously described. Pistorius suggests that it was moved by the police. The curtains have also been opened and the duvet is on the floor, he says, which was not how he left the room. "Your version is a lie," Nel tells him.

After pushing Pistorius to pinpoint exactly where he left the fan, the prosecution claims that the cords would not have reached that far. Pistorius disputes this and even accuses Nel of “misleading the court” after the prosecutor incorrectly suggests that part of the cord was wedged under a speaker. Nevertheless, Nel describes the athlete’s version of events as being "so improbable, no one would ever think it's true".

11.55am: Nel returns to the night of Reeva Steenkamp's death, specifically about the way in which Pistorius shot the gun. The athlete tells the court he fired “four shots in quick succession”, not two "double taps" (two shots fired in rapid succession), which is what his defence lawyer Barry Roux claimed at one point earlier in the trial.

Again, Nel tries to clarify what Pistorius means when he says he shot by accident. “I didn’t mean to pull the trigger. In that sense it was an accident,” says Pistorius. He says the firearm was aimed at the door and the noise coming from the toilet is what made him pull the trigger. "If Reeva had come out or if she had spoken to me, I would not have fired,” he says. For the first time today, Pistorius’s voice begins to crack. He repeats: “I didn't have time to think and I fired my weapon. It was an accident.” The court adjourns for lunch.

11.40am: Judge Thokozile Masipa reprimands Nel for laughing at one of Pistorius's answers. She also gives a warning to the people in the gallery. "You possibly think this is entertainment, but it is not so please restrain yourselves," she says.

11.30am: Nel is asking Pistorius about another firearms charge, in which he is accused of firing a gun out of an open car sunroof in September 2012. He was with his friend Darren Fresco and his then-girlfriend Samantha Taylor. Pistorius says he had his firearm with him when the three of them attended a “get-together” on a boat earlier in the day. The athlete tells the court he carries his gun “everywhere” for his safety.

Nel accuses Pistorius of being negligent with his firearm, after he admitted to leaving it on the boat, wrapped in a towel, when he went for a swim. After the Paralympian says there was no one on the boat who would handle his gun, Nel says: “You just don't take responsibility for anything. You don't do anything wrong.”

10.50am: Nel returns to the WhatsApp messages. "Have you snapped at Reeva in the past?" he asks Pistorius. "I guess I have got upset with her," says the athlete, but he adds that he has never lost his temper or shouted at her. "Reeva was never scared of me," he says. Nel points out that this is not what the WhatsApp message from Steenkamp suggests.

10.10am: The prosecution has turned to one of the athlete’s firearms charges, which relates to an incident before Steenkamp's death when a Glock pistol went off in a Johannesburg restaurant called Tashas. Pistorius admits that the gun went off in his possession, but he will not admit that he had his finger on the trigger when it discharged. He says he was “negligent”, even “reckless”, for taking the weapon from his friend Darren Fresco without first checking that it had a round in it. "It was a stupid thing to do," he says.

However, Nel points to previous evidence given by ballistics expert Chris Mangena, who said it would not have been possible to fire a shot from the Glock pistol without pulling the trigger. Pistorius also claims that he took the blame for the gun going off and offered to pay the restaurant for the damages, while previous witnesses have said the athlete asked Fresco to take the blame. Nel tells Pistorius he is "lying" and that this is "a good example of you not taking responsibility for what you did".

9.45am: Nel continues to go line-by-line through messages sent during an argument between Pistorius and Steenkamp. He accuses Pistorius of "blaming" Steenkamp on a number of occasions. Pistorius says that is the nature of an argument, although he concedes that, on one occasion when he brushed his girlfriend off as she touched his neck, he may have "humiliated" her. Nel suggests that after one argument, Pistorius purposefully played the song Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe by Kendrick Lamar, to which Steenkamp took offence. The Paralympian says he only asked his friend to play the album during a car journey and did not even know if that was a Lamar song.

9.05am: Pistorius is being challenged about a few longer, unhappy messages from Steenkamp, in which she told the athlete “I'm scared of you sometimes” and “you have picked on me incessantly”. The athlete denies that he picked on her and does not understand why she wrote that. He says he never screamed at her, although admits that he screamed at one of his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor's friends. Pistorius begins suggesting that Steenkamp was "scared of her feelings” for him but clarifies that she was "obviously scared of the way I react to the things she does at times". Nel is repeatedly emphasising how much Pistorius uses the word “I” and suggesting that he was more concerned with himself than Steenkamp. 

8.40am: Nel is questioning Pistorius about the WhatsApp messages between himself and Steenkamp. He notes that “I love you” does not appear in any of the messages. Pistorius tells the court that he never got the opportunity to tell Reeva he loved her.

Oscar Pistorius describes how Reeva died as he held her body

9 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS faced a brutal cross-examination in court today, as the prosecution demanded that he looked at an image of Reeva Steenkamp’s fatal head wounds.

The athlete spent a third day in the witness box, giving evidence at his murder trial in Pretoria. It followed his dramatic testimony on Tuesday, which had to be adjourned when he broke down and wept uncontrollably. Pistorius gave a harrowing account of how he killed Steenkamp on 14 February 2013, shooting her through the door of the toilet cubicle at his home.

Today he told the court what happened in the hours after the shooting. He then faced a tough cross-examination by the prosecution, which produced unforeseen video footage of Pistorius shooting at a watermelon with “zombie-stopper” bullets.

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

1.55pm: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has been pushing Pistorius to admit that he deliberately shot at the toilet door, but the athlete insists it was not deliberate. "I fired my firearm before I could think, before I even had a moment to comprehend what was happening,” Pistorius tells the court. He repeats that he “did not intend to shoot at anyone” and “shot out of fear”.

Judge Thokozile Masipa steps in when Nel asks the defendant why he is becoming emotional again. "He may be emotional,” says Masipa. “I don't think you can ask him, ‘Why now?’ He has been emotional throughout."

Nel pushes Pistorius to admit that he is thinking about the implications of his answers in court. The athlete says it would be "reckless" not to, adding "My life is on the line." Nel takes the opportunity to remind him that Reeva does not have a life because of his actions and asks him to "think of Reeva" rather than the implications of what he is saying.

12.05pm: Nel is highlighting a discrepancy between the version of events given by Pistorius in court and the affidavit he signed for his bail application. In the affidavit, Pistorius says:

During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom.

However, Pistorius has told the court he did not go out fully onto his bedroom balcony to retrieve the fan. The Paralympian has been given time to read his full affidavit statement over lunch.

In the lead-up to the trial, the prosecution questioned how Pistorius did not notice that Reeva had left the bed. Nel therefore looks likely to ask the athlete to explain another section of his statement, in which he says: “With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in.”

11.00am: The court reconvenes after an adjournment and is shown a video, previously revealed by Sky News in February. In the footage, Pistorius is seen firing a pistol at a watermelon at a shooting range, which explodes when it is hit. Laughter is heard and then a man off-camera says: "It's not as soft as brains but f*** its a zombie stopper." When asked to explain what was going on, Pistorius tells the court it was not him laughing but it was him who said the words. “In hindsight, I'm very upset that I used those words,” he says. However, the athlete insists he was referring to zombies and not humans and questions why it is relevant to the trial.

A photograph of Reeva’s head wounds appears on screen and Nel declares: “You saw how the bullet made the watermelon explode. You know that the same thing happened to Reeva's head... Look at it.” Sobbing, Pistorius tells the court: “I remember. I won't look at that picture. I remember. I was there.”

The athlete’s defence lawyer steps in and the judge asks for the picture to be removed. The court is adjourned once again to give Pistorius time to compose himself.

9.39am: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, nicknamed 'The Pit Bull', opens the state's cross-examination with the question: "You killed Reeva Steenkamp, didn't you?" Pistorius says that he made a mistake and vows to tell the truth. Things take an unexpected turn when Nel asks Pistorius if he knows what a “zombie stopper” is. Pistorius says he does not. Nel claims to have a video, which is already in the public domain, relating to the term “zombie stopper” but the athlete’s defence jumps in and talks of an “ambush” and “constitutional rights”. The court adjourns so the judge and lawyers can decide whether to show the video, which was not previously submitted in the state's evidence.

9.30am: Defence lawyer Barry Roux asks Pistorius directly if he intended to kill Steenkamp. “I did not intend to kill Reeva, m'lady, or anyone else for that matter,” Pistorius replies. The court is adjourned for five minutes.

9.05am: The athlete’s lawyer Barry Roux asks Pistorius if he was wearing his prosthetic legs when he smashed down the toilet door with a cricket bat to gain entry after the shooting. Pistorius has previously claimed he was wearing the legs at this point, but the prosecution claims he was on his stumps. Pistorius insists he had his legs on. “I can barely stand on my stumps, let alone wield a bat,” he says.

8.30am: The court has picked up from the moment Pistorius entered the toilet to help Steenkamp, after shooting her four times through the locked door. The athlete says that his girlfriend did not appear to be breathing. He managed to get her out of the toilet cubicle and onto the bathroom floor but struggled to carry her body and feared he would hurt her further. He called a friend from the estate, Johan Stander, for help and then 911 Netcare. The Paralympian has said he cannot remember certain points after this. For example, he says he doesn't recall phoning security, but records show that a call was made to security on his mobile.

Stander and his daughter arrived shortly afterwards. "I felt helpless. I just wanted to take her to the hospital, I had my finger in her mouth. I was trying to help her breathe," explains Pistorius. Paramedics later arrived, but Pistorius said: “Reeva had already died whilst I was holding her, before the ambulance arrived, so I knew that there was nothing that I could do for her.”

Oscar Pistorius describes night he shot Reeva Steenkamp

8 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS retched and broke into heaving sobs as he described the moment he realised that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

In a second day of evidence, he repeated his claims that he believed he was firing at an intruder who had broken into his luxury apartment.

"I needed to protect myself and Reeva," he told the court, describing his reaction to hearing noises in the flat. "I needed to get my gun."

Pistorius is accused of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp on 14 February last year. He denies the charge, along with other firearms offences.

He spent the morning telling the court how he had been “besotted” with Steenkamp and said they had been making "future plans" together.

Below are the key points of today's testimony:

1.30pm: Defence lawyer Barry Roux tells the judge that Pistorius is too emotional to continue with his testimony. "His shirt is soaking wet," Roux says. The prosecution agrees to an adjournment, and the trial will resume tomorrow morning.

1.19pm: The judge orders an adjournment as Pistorius breaks down in tears after describing how he discovered Steenkamp's body in the toilet. He said he had returned to his bedroom after firing the shots and had looked for his girlfriend there. When he saw she wasn't on the bed, he had hoped that she had hid under the bed, but gradually he realised that it might have been her he heard in the bathroom. Then he tried to open the locked door to the toilet, returning to his bedroom to pick up the cricket bat and then using that to break down the door. When he saw the body, he said, "Oh Reeva."

1.12pm: As Pistorius reaches the critical point of his testimony, his voice rises in pitch:

I wasn’t sure if someone was going to come out of the toilet and attack me or come up the ladder and point a firearm in the house and start shooting, so I stayed where I was. Then I heard a noise in the toilet which I perceived to be someone in the toilet. Before I knew it I shot four shots through the door.

My ears were still ringing so I kept shouting for Reeva. I wasn’t sure if there was someone in the toilet. I don’t know how long I stood there for.

 

1.11pm: Back on the witness stand after lunch, Pistorius picks up his testimony where he left off:

As I peered in [to the bathroom] I could see that the window was open. I was with my back against the wall with my hand against the wall for balance slowly scuffling along the left-hand wall. I wasn’t sure if the intruders were in the toilet or on a ladder that they would have used to gain access or if they were round the corner at that point. I still had my firearm in front of me.

 

1.05pm: Aislinn Laing, the Daily Telegraph's sourthern Africa correspondent, reports that just before lunch, "the court paused to bring up a picture on the screen requested by Mr Roux, and a photograph of Steenkamp’s body flashed up. Pistorius collapsed in the witness box, his arms covering his head, and vomited. He was taken a green bucket and the court adjourned for lunch."

Midday: At 1pm local time, and at a crucial moment in Pistorius's statement, the court adjourns for lunch.

11.55am: Speaking quickly in a silent courtroom, Pistorius continues his testimony: 

As I entered where the passage is to the bathroom I was overcome with fear and start screaming for the burglars to get out of my house. I shouted for Reeva to get on the floor. I slowly made my way down the passage, constantly aware that these people could come at me at any time. I didn't have my legs on. Just before I got to the wall of where the tiles start in the bathroom I stopped shouting as I was worried the person would know exactly where I was and I could get shot. I heard a toilet door slam, what could only have been the toilet door. I couldn't see inside, but it confirmed for me there was a person or people inside.

 

11.50am: Pistorius describes the moment that he heard someone inside his apartment:

It was at this point that I heard a window open in the bathroom, it sounded like the window sliding open. I could hear it hit the frame as though it had hit a point where it couldn't slide any more. That's the moment that everything changed. I thought there was a burglar entering my home. I was on the side of the room where you first have to cross the passage that leads to the bathroom. I just froze, I heard this noise, I interpreted it as someone climbing into the bathroom. I thought they could be there at any moment. The first thing I thought was I needed to arm myself, I needed to protect myself and Reeva, I needed to get my gun.

 

11.45am: Pistorius removes his prosthetic legs in court, demonstrating his ability to stand without them.

11.30am: Pistorius says that he slept with the windows open on the night in question because the air conditioning was not working. He placed a cricket bat beside a cabinet because he was worried that the bedroom door lock was flimsy. He was particularly edgy because the alarm system on his apartment was out of action after building work.

Oscar Pistorius: police release photos of crime scene

1 April

SOUTH AFRICAN police have released graphic photographs of where Reeva Steenkamp was fatally shot in Oscar Pistorius's Pretoria home.

The images show the athlete's blood-soaked toilet, where Steenkamp was shot through a closed door, as well as spatters of blood around the house, left as Pistorius carried his dying girlfriend downstairs.

Several photographs show a pool of blood inside the toilet cubicle, reports The Independent. Others show the athlete's 9mm gun lying on a bathroom mat and the blood-stained cricket bat he used to later break down the door.

Steenkamp was shot three times by Black Talon bullets, designed to "mushroom on impact" with human flesh. A neighbour previously told the court how he found Pistorius at the bottom of the stairs praying over Steenkamp, who was "mortally wounded".

The Paralympian denies deliberately murdering Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year, claiming he mistook her for a dangerous intruder when he opened fire.

The trial, which has been postponed for more than a week after one of the legal assessors was taken ill, has already heard 15 days of prosecution-led testimony from neighbours, forensics experts and ballistics specialists. The defence for the athlete will now open on 7 April, with Pistorius likely to take the stand.

Bullet holes in the toilet door are marked with letters A-D. The yellow steel rods mark the alleged trajectory of the bullets.

A photograph of the crime scene taken on 15 February, one day after the shooting. Pistorius shot Steenkamp through the toilet door, where she was locked inside the cubicle within his bathroom. He then broke through the door with a cricket bat.

The area marked 'CC' is where Steenkamp was found by the first witnesses who arrived at the crime scene. Pistorius claims he took her downstairs in a bid to get help.

 

Oscar Pistorius: five questions the athlete will need to answer

26 March

OSCAR PISTORIUS looks likely to testify in court when his murder trial resumes in Pretoria on Friday. The athlete has admitted he is having a "tough time" and he is likely to face an even tougher cross-examination from the prosecution, which wrapped up its case yesterday.

While it is not compulsory for the accused to testify first, it is generally regarded as a show of confidence and an opportunity to establish his version of events, says The Guardian. It will then be up to Judge Thokozile Masipa to decide whether or not Pistorius is guilty of deliberately murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. So what questions will the athlete need to answer?

How could he not have heard Steenkamp scream? Several witnesses have said they heard a woman's screams around the time Steenkamp was killed. A pathologist said it would have been "abnormal" for the victim not to scream after suffering initial non-fatal wounds to her hip and arm, while a ballistics expert insisted there was a pause between these initial shots and the fatal blast that hit her in the head, rendering her mute. The prosecution will try to prove that Pistorius heard Reeva in distress, but continued to open fire.

Does Pistorius scream like a woman? Pistorius claimed in his bail hearing affidavit that he was the only one to cry out once he realised he had shot his girlfriend, and defence lawyer Barry Roux has repeatedly suggested that the athlete may have screamed like a woman. This begs the question: will Pistorius be asked to scream in court? ABC News compares such a defence to the moment OJ Simpson was asked to squeeze his hand into a bloody black glove, a key piece of evidence in his murder trial, as his lawyer told the jury: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Did he tell security "everything is fine"? Pieter Baba, a security guard on Pistorius's estate, has claimed that he called the athlete moments after the shooting and that Pistorius told him "Everything is fine." Baba said Pistorius rang him back shortly afterwards but was crying and the line went dead. The prosecution may subsequently try to prove that the sprinter initially considered a cover-up. However, phone records shown in court this week go some way to undermining Baba's testimony. They confirmed Pistorius's version of events that he called security first and then they called him back.

Was he on stumps when he swung the cricket bat? A forensics expert has insisted that the double-amputee must have been on his stumps when he swung a cricket bat to break down the toilet door. However, Pistorius has previously claimed he was wearing prosthetic legs. The point is unlikely to prove the athlete's guilt or innocence but an explanation might help to convince the judge that he has presented the court an honest version of events.

Did he and Steenkamp fight? Police discovered damage to Pistorius's bedroom door, bathroom tiles and a metal panel in the bathroom that is yet to be explained by the defence. Blood spatters were also found in the bedroom, away from where Pistorius would have carried Steenkamp to get help. One neighbour believes she heard two people arguing an hour before Steenkamp was killed, when Pistorius claims they were still asleep. A small number of text messages sent between the couple also show they had fought in the past and that Steenkamp had even said the athlete "scared" her just weeks before her death.

 

Oscar Pistorius: intimate Reeva texts read out in court

25 March

INTIMATE messages between Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp were read out in court today as defence lawyers sought to prove that the couple had been in a loving relationship.

In one message Pistorius wrote "I miss you one more than you miss me always", to which she replied "impossible".

The model even asked to cook for Pistorius to celebrate their first Valentine's Day as a couple on the night that she was shot dead. She also sent a photograph of herself blowing a kiss to the athlete.

Pistorius frequently referred to Steenkamp as "baby" and "angel", and told a friend that the model made "his heart happy" just two days before the shooting, reports The Independent.

Today's evidence painted a very different picture to that heard yesterday, when it was suggested that Steenkamp was scared of the runner and unhappy in the relationship.

Captain Francois Moller, the police technology expert in the witness stand, admitted that out of 1,704 WhatsApp messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp, he found only four conversations in which the couple were arguing.

However, the prosecution has pointed out that most messages were one liners, as opposed to the long messages during their fights when Steenkamp revealed she was unhappy.

Moller also told the court today that Pistorius's mobile phone connected to the internet for about five minutes about an hour before he killed his girlfriend, despite the athlete claiming they were asleep at that time.

But Moller conceded it was impossible to tell if there was any "human interaction" with the handset at that time. The entry in the call log could have been caused by an automated update, or incoming e-mails which triggered the GPRS data connection to the local cell phone tower, he said.

The time does, however, coincide with a claim by Pistorius's neighbour, Estelle van der Merwe, who said she woke to the sound of a couple arguing, reports The Times.

The court is adjourned until Friday morning so the defence can consult with a number of state witnesses before launching its own case.

 

Pistorius: woman's 'terrified' screams heard 'loud and clear'

24 March

THE screams of a "terrified woman" could be heard "loud and clear" on the night Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp, a neighbour has told the court.

Annette Stipp is one of several witnesses to recall female screams on 14 February last year, when the Paralympian shot his girlfriend through a toilet door in his Pretoria home.

The screaming is seen as crucial to the case, as the prosecution is seeking to show that Pistorius heard Reeva in distress, but continued to fire. The defence claims Pistorius was the only one to cry out, after he realised that he had killed Steenkamp rather than a dangerous intruder.

As the trial entered its fourth week, Stipp told the court that she woke up just after 3am on 14 February 2013 hearing three sounds "like gunshots". She and her husband heard a woman screaming, she said, and went outside. The screaming was "loud and clear" and not muffled, she said, although male cries could also be heard.

Stipp said the couple called security and heard what she thought was three more shots 15 minutes after she had first woken up. After the second set of shots there was no more screaming, neither male nor female, reports eNCA.

Stipp, an occupational therapist involved in medico-legal work, said she was "absolutely certain" the screaming she heard was female and repeatedly insisted it was not Pistorius. They had two different pitches, she said.

The witness's husband, Dr Johan Stipp, has previously testified that he later went to Pistorius's home and found the athlete praying over Steenkamp's body.

The trial, which is now in its fourth week, will now run until mid-May after all parties agreed to an extension. The court will be in recess for the week beginning 7 April, and will then resume from 14 April until 16 May.

Meanwhile, Pistorius has had to sell his home in order to pay the mounting legal costs.

Oscar Pistorius murder trial: what has happened so far?

23 March

THE Oscar Pistorius trial will resume tomorrow with the prosecution preparing to wrap up its case. Police investigators, neighbours and the athlete's friends have been among the 18 witnesses to testify so far, and only four or five more state witnesses are due to be called. 

It remains unclear as to whether the prosecution is confident that it has a conviction clinched or whether it fears its case has been fundamentally damaged.

Ultimately, it will be up to Judge Thokozile Masipa to decide whether or not Pistorius is guilty of deliberately murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year, as well as three other firearms-related charges. Here are the key points from the trial so far:

Order of screams and gunshots

Four witnesses said they heard a woman's screams – described by one neighbour as "bloodcurdling" – around the time Steenkamp was killed. Yet Pistorius claims he was the only one to cry out once he realised he had shot his girlfriend. Defence lawyer Barry Roux has repeatedly suggested that Pistorius may have screamed like a woman.

The prosecution will be seeking to show that Pistorius heard Reeva in distress, but continued to fire. A pathologist said it would have been "abnormal" for the victim not to scream after suffering gunshots to the hip and arm – and, according to the state's police ballistics expert, these non-fatal wounds came before she was shot in the head. The defence claims Pistorius shot four times with two "double-tap" bursts, giving Steenkamp no time to cry out. But the ballistic expert insisted there must have been a pause, because Steenkamp moved from a standing position to sitting on the floor. It was after this that she received a shot to the head, which would have rendered her mute.

Veracity of Pistorius's statement

Several witnesses have cast doubt on the Paralympian's original version of events. The pathologist who carried out Reeva's post-mortem said she had eaten no more than two hours before her death, yet Pistorius claimed that they were both asleep at 10pm and woke after 3am. Another witness claimed to have heard an argument from the athlete's house more than an hour before he opened fire. The double-amputee also says he was wearing his prosthetic legs when he swung a cricket bat to break down the toilet door, but a forensics expert believes he was on his stumps.

Bungling police

Extraordinary police blunders have emerged during the course of the trial. One officer handled the firearm without protective gloves, other evidence was moved around the crime scene by police. Forensic experts failed to investigate some potentially important markings on the toilet door and one of the athlete's watches appears to have been stolen. The defence is likely to argue that some evidence is therefore inadmissible because of police tampering.

Pistorius's history with guns

The athlete's character has been under the spotlight, particularly his history with guns. His love of weapons has been noted by more than one witness and the evidence so far supports the state's claim that he has been reckless with guns. Testimonies from friends and an ex-girlfriend claimed that he had fired a gun in a restaurant full of people and through a car's open sunroof. Pistorius denies the sunroof shooting and claims the restaurant shooting was an accident.

What next?

The identities of the state's final witnesses are yet to be announced. They could include members of Pistorius's family, former partners of both Steenkamp and Pistorius, as well as more experts and police officers. In the days leading up to the trial, investigators travelled all the way to the Apple headquarters in California to unlock at least one mobile phone belonging to Pistorius, but it remains to be seen if this trip proved fruitful for the prosecution. It is also not certain whether or not Pistorius himself will take the stand. The move would help the athlete show he has nothing to hide, but would also mean Pistorius – who has repeatedly broken down in tears and vomited in court – will have to face a tough cross-examination.

Pistorius used bullets that cause 'maximum wounding'

19 March

REEVA STEENKAMP was standing up when Oscar Pistorius opened fire using bullets that cause "maximum wounding", his murder trial in Pretoria has heard.

The athlete had his head in his hands but otherwise remained composed this morning as ballistics and blood spatter experts gave graphic evidence.

The court heard that Steenkamp was standing up in the toilet, facing the locked wooden door, when she was first shot and wounded in the early hours of 14 February 2013.

Captain Christiaan Mangena, the ballistics expert working on the case, said a bullet hit and broke her hip. She then fell down backwards onto a magazine rack in a seated position next to the toilet.

Subsequent bullets caused bruises to her back, wounded her right arm and penetrated her skull as she held her hands up to her head. The shot to her head caused her to collapse, unconscious onto the toilet, he said.

Mangena's account of events supports that of the pathologist who performed Steenkamp's post mortem. Professor Gert Saayman said that Steenkamp would almost certainly have screamed after sustaining the first non-fatal wounds, yet Pistorius carried on shooting.

Mangena said the muzzle of the gun was at least 60cm from the bathroom door, and said Pistorius was "most likely not wearing the prosthesis legs" when he opened fire.

The ballistics expert explained that the type of ammunition Pistorius used creates "maximum wounding". If such a bullet hits human tissue, it opens up into six sharp talons and cuts through human organs, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Colonel Michael Sales, a police mobile phone expert, was also in court today to talk about his analysis of the web history on Pistorius's iPads.

Reporters studying the data in court said that free porn sites had been viewed at around 6.30pm on 13 February. However, Pistorius's defence made a point of noting that the police witness could not say who looked at the websites.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday 24 March after the prosecution requested time to consult witnesses before it wraps up its case.

  

Oscar Pistorius: photos show athlete drenched in blood

14 March 

PHOTOGRAPHS of a shirtless Oscar Pistorius covered in blood were shown to the Pretoria court as his murder trial entered its tenth day.

The images, taken soon after the athlete shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, showed him standing in his garage with blood smeared across his forearms and prosthetic legs. He was wearing only shorts with a large dark blood stain down their right side.

The pictures were taken by a police photographer soon after police arrived on the scene.

Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg, the commander of the local Boschkop police station, said that the athlete had blood smeared across his front when he arrived, but appeared to have cleaned up a little before the picture was taken. He told the court that the runner had not been wearing a shirt.

As the first police officer on the scene, Van Rensburg said he inspected the room in which Pistorius shot Steenkamp, after following a trail of bloodstains to the scene of the killing. Van Rensburg said that when he found the athlete in his kitchen he repeatedly asked what had happened, but Pistorius was too emotional to speak.

The police colonel told the court there was "no way" an intruder could have scaled the walls of Pistorius's house and entered through his bathroom window. "The window was high and there was no way somebody could have gained access through that window," he said.

However, he also said that when he went onto Pistorius's bedroom balcony, he noticed three or four ladders lying flat on the ground below. In his affidavit, Pistorius said he knew that a team of workmen had left the ladders there, which added to his sense of vulnerability.

During cross-examination Van Rensburg admitted to "extraordinary" police blunders, reports The Times, ranging from letting one of Pistorius's watches go missing to allowing a forensics officer to handle the firearm without protective gloves. 

Oscar Pistorius 'cheated on ex' with Reeva Steenkamp

9 March

OSCAR PISTORIUS'S former girlfriend has accused the athlete of cheating on her with Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he shot dead at his home last year, and of firing a gun through an open sunroof.

Samantha Taylor, 20, was in the Pretoria High Court today as a witness in the trial in which Pistorius is charged with the murder of Steenkamp, his then girlfriend, on Valentine's Day last year.

Taylor

told the court about an occasion when she, Pistorius and friends, including Darren Fresco, were stopped for speeding by a police officer.

She claimed Pistorius had shouted at the officer for touching his gun and afterwards talked with Fresco about shooting a "robot", meaning a traffic light, to "annoy" the police. Instead Pistorius fired a shot out of the open sunroof, she said, which made a "very, very loud sound" and both Pistorius and Fresco laughed.

When asked how her relationship ended with Pistorius, she told the court: "He cheated on me with Reeva Steenkamp."

However, Barry Roux, Pistorius's defence lawyer, said he had emails to prove that the athlete was no longer in a relationship with her when he started his relationship with Steenkamp. Roux claimed he also had email evidence showing

Taylor had in fact cheated on him while he was away at the London Olympics in 2012.

The athlete's defence has claimed that the sounds of a woman screaming – heard by all four neighbours who have so far testified – were in fact Pistorius's own "high pitched screams" that "sound like a woman", reports The Independent.

But Taylor, who repeatedly broke down in tears while giving evidence, stated that she had heard Pistorius scream at her "sister, best friend, another friend and his best friend" and he "never sounded like a woman". She nevertheless conceded that she had not heard him scream when he was in fear for his life.

Taylor said Pistorius was "often" worried about intruders breaking into the house and, on one occasion, he woke her up in the night thinking he heard an intruder and left the bedroom with his gun.

Oscar Pistorius trial: witness recalls 'bloodcurdling screams'

3 March

JUST hours into the Oscar Pistorius trial, the prosecution's first witness has described hearing a woman's "bloodcurdling screams" on the night of Reeva Steenkamp's death.

Michelle Burger, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria and one of Pistorius's neighbours, told the court that she woke up after 3am on 14 February 2013 hearing a woman's "terrible screams".

Burger said she also heard a man screaming for help and that her husband phoned security guards to tell them that their neighbours were being attacked.

Burger described the woman's screams as "worse, more intense" and added: "It was a climax. She was very scared."

Just after the screams, Burger said she heard four gunshots and recalled telling her husband: "I hope that woman did not watch her husband being shot in front of her."

The court was shown a photograph taken from Burger's bedroom balcony, said to be 177 metres from Pistorius's house. Her bedroom window faces towards Pistorius's home and was said to be open due to heat and a lack of air conditioning.

She told the court: "It was very traumatic for me... it was bloodcurdling screams. It leaves you cold, you can't translate into words the anxiousness of her voice."

Burger said she did not initially report what she heard to authorities but came forward after hearing of other witnesses who lived further away from Pistorius's home. She said "we are not media people" and wanted to report the incident privately, but was then visited by police.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux later asked Burger whether she may in fact have heard the shouts of a desperate man and suggested that Pistorius may sound like a woman when he is anxious. The witness insisted she heard two people, a man and a woman, and four gunshots, but said she never heard the sound of a cricket bat striking a door.

Earlier this morning, Pistorius pleaded not guilty to murder, as well as a series of firearms charges.

For much of the opening statement by defence counsel Kenny Oldwage, Pistorius had his eyes closed and occasionally sighed, reports Sky News.

Oldwage told the court that Pistorius believed an intruder was in his bathroom when he shot Steenkamp and denied allegations that the pair had argued before the shooting.

Recommended

Aung San Suu Kyi: victim, villain or hero?
Aung San Suu Kyi
Profile

Aung San Suu Kyi: victim, villain or hero?

What will the next global pandemic look like?
Ebola
Today’s big question

What will the next global pandemic look like?

PM launches ten-year drugs plan amid cocaine in Commons claims
A young man sniffs cocaine
Why we’re talking about . . .

PM launches ten-year drugs plan amid cocaine in Commons claims

What the ‘One China’ principle means for future of Taiwan
Taiwanese people wave their national flag during celebrations in capital Taipei to commemorate the foundation of the Republic of China
Expert’s view

What the ‘One China’ principle means for future of Taiwan

Popular articles

Is Boris Johnson’s authority ‘evaporating’?
Boris Johnson
Behind the scenes

Is Boris Johnson’s authority ‘evaporating’?

Is World War Three looming?
Xi Jinping
In Depth

Is World War Three looming?

Vladimir Putin and his mysterious love life
Vladimir Putin and his now ex-wife Lyudmila Putina
Profile

Vladimir Putin and his mysterious love life

The Week Footer Banner