Neighbours who responded to a frantic phone call from Oscar Pistorius begging for help the night he fatally shot his girlfriend testified as his murder trial reopened on Monday, saying Pistorius was "broken, desperate" as he tried to help her.
The defence is seeking to prove the Olympian's claims that he shot Reeva Steenkamp accidentally after mistaking her for an intruder.
Johan Stander and his daughter, Carice Viljoen, neighbours and friends of Pistorius, testified that that they were at the runner’s villa soon after the shooting in the early hours of February 14, 2013, and that Pistorius was pleading to God and trying to help Steenkamp breathe.
Viljoen testified that Pistorius was saying to Steenkamp as she lay on the floor with multiple gunshot wounds: “Stay with me, my love, stay with me.”
The Olympian double-amputee fired four shots through his toilet cubicle door with a 9mm pistol just minutes earlier, hitting Steenkamp in the hip, arm and head. He claims he thought she was a intruder who had gained access to the bathroom through an open window.
Prosecutors maintain that Pistorius, 27, is lying and that his story about thinking there was an intruder in the house was fabricated to cover up killing the 29-year-old model intentionally in the midst of a heated argument.
The first amputee ever to run at the Olympics in 2012, Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of a premeditated murder charge.
The testimonies from the neighbours began the seventh week of proceedings in the globally televised trial, which resumed Monday after a two-week recess.
Pistorius 'asked God to help him'
Stander testified that Pistorius phoned him at around 3:19am – about two minutes after the shooting. Pistorius told him he had thought Steenkamp was an intruder and shot her, Stander testified, and Stander and his daughter went to the Pistorius house after he pleaded for him to come and help.
“I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I feel it,” Stander testified, saying he believed that the shooting was accidental because of Pistorius’ desperation when they found him carrying a bloodied Steenkamp downstairs from the upstairs bathroom.
"He was asking God to help him. He was torn apart, broken, desperate, pleading,'' he testified.
“He was in pain,” Stander said.
Stander's own voice shook at one point and he became emotional on the witness stand as he tried to portray Pistorius' state that night. "It's difficult really to describe,'' he said.
"The expression on his face, an expression of sorrow, an expression of pain, he's crying, he's praying," said Stander. "It was as if he was torn apart."
The defence is trying to emphasise that Pistorius was emotionally distressed after shooting Steenkamp by mistake.
Before the break in the trial, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel put Pistorius under intense pressure during his five days of testimony. The prosecution has opted to focus on events before the killing and has tried to portray Pistorius as a gun fanatic.
Nel has argued that the athlete's version of the events on that fateful night is a fabrication, including arguing that he never attempted to locate Steenkamp despite knowing she was awake before walking to the bathroom on his stumps and firing through the toilet door.
Pistorius slumped forward in the Pretoria courtroom Monday with his head in his hands as details of Steenkamp’s last moments alive were discussed.
Cross-examining Stander, Nel questioned if he was a good friend of Pistorius and was therefore trying to “assist” the defence. Stander said he had known Pistorius since 2009 and looked after his home and dogs when he was away. Nel asked if the friendship led him to back Pistorius’ story. Stander said he also knew Steenkamp.
“I’m here to give the truth,” Stander said. “And I think I’ve given the truth, what I saw that morning.”
Nel’s manner in cross-examining both Stander and Viljoen was relatively subdued in contrast to his aggressive manner during his questioning of Pistorius and of two expert witnesses for the defense.
Stander earlier recounted the telephone call from Pistorius that woke him up in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day.
“He (Pistorius) said on the call, ‘Johan, please, please, please come to my house. Please. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please come quick’,” Stander said.
Viljoen testified that when they arrived at the house, Pistorius begged her to help him get Steenkamp into a car so they could take her to a hospital. Viljoen said she urged Pistorius to “just put her down” so they could try and stop the bleeding. As Viljoen spoke, her voice broke and she became tearful.
“I just saw blood everywhere,” she said. Her father stepped outside to telephone an ambulance, Viljoen said, and she went upstairs to fetch towels to stop the bleeding. Pistorius was pleading for Steenkamp to stay alive, she said.
“He kept on egging Reeva to just stay with him,” she testified.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-05-05