news

Oscar Pistorius: "The trial of the century"

Oscar Pistorius on day two of his trial

Day Two:

On the second day of the Oscar Pistorius trial a key witness has broken down as she stuck to her story regarding the screams she heard from the home of Pistorius on the night he shot Reeva Steenkamp.

“It was awful to hear the shouts before the shots,” Dr Michelle Burger a University lecturer said. “When I am in the shower I relive her shouts.”

Earlier Pistorius had been reduced to silent tears when his barrister, Barry Roux, told the court how Miss Steenkamp was shot in the head.

The barrister was reading medical evidence on the shooting.

Mr Roux said it was physically impossible for Reeva to scream, given the final bullet had struck her in the head, puncturing her brain.

The SMH reports “The court heard how the first bullet fired by Pistorius struck Ms Steenkamp in the right thigh and the second missed her and instead lodged in the bathroom wall.

A third shot struck her in the shoulder, while the fourth struck her head. It’s understood there is a dispute between the parties as to the order of the bullets.

“That total impact of [the] shots would not have allowed her to scream,” he said. “With the head shot she would have dropped down immediately.”

day one: The trial has begun in South Africa with Oscar Pistorius pleading not guilty to murdering his girlfriend.

The first witness to give evidence Michelle Burger, said she and her husband were awoken at around 3am by “bloodcurdling screams’’ coming from the Pistorius home in an up-market Johannesburg gated community.

“She screamed terribly and she yelled for help,’’ Ms Burger said “It was something you can’t explain to someone else, how anxious those screams were.’’

“Just after her screams, I heard shots, four shots,’’ she said, describing one clear shot then three clustered together.

“Bang bang, bang, bang.’’

“I heard petrified screaming before the gunshots, and just after the gunshots,’’ she said when pressed by Pistorius’s lawyer.

*********

One year and two weeks ago double amputee Oscar Pistorius fired four shots into his closed bathroom door.

His girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp was on the other side. She was shot dead.

Today what is touted as the ‘trial of the century’ begins in the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria in South Africa.

ADVERTISEMENT

The case will decide whether super-star athlete Oscar Pistorius is a cold blooded murderer who shot his girlfriend in a rage or a hero who tried to save her but simply made a mistake.

It is a trial not of who-dun-it but of why did he do it?

Here’s what you need to know

 1. Who are they?

Oscar Pistorius:

ABC News American calls Pistorius “a boundary-breaking athlete who tested the world’s preconceptions of what disabled meant and did it with apparent humility and decency”.

Oscar Pistorius was born with fibular hemimelia in both legs. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles.

He is known as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man on no legs” because of the carbon-fiber prosthetic blades he wears to run track.

Pistorius is the winner of six gold, one silver and one bronze Paralympic medals. He was the first double-amputee athlete to compete against able-bodied runners in the Olympics.

Reeva Steenkamp:

She was a 29-year old South African model and a law school graduate with a blossoming TV career.

At the time of her death, Steenkamp was signed up to appear on season five of the reality TV program Tropika Island of Treasure.

The couple were a regular feature on the red carpet in South Africa.

 2. What’s the prosecution’s case?

The state is expected to show the couple had relationship problems, and will call as witnesses neighbours who heard fighting and screaming the night of the shooting.

Images of Pistorius shooting surfaced last week

The prosecution say that Pistorius and Sreenkamp had an argument. She locked herself in their bathroom with her mobile phone, after fleeing down a seven-metre passage at his home in Pretoria.

According to details outlined at previous hearings, the prosecution argues Pistorius followed her with his 9mm pistol, first putting on his prosthetic legs.

It is claimed he shot his gun four times through the door, killing an “unarmed and defenceless” woman, before the door was broken open from the outside.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius a man “willing and ready to fire and kill” as the state charged him with premeditated murder. Prosecutors say there was “a measure of preparation” in the way he killed Steenkamp after the couple argued loudly at his home.

ADVERTISEMENT

 3. What does the defence say?

He claims they were very much in love

Oscar Pistorius insists that the couple’s relationship was a happy one – and that they were very much in love. The core of his defence is that he shot his 29-year-old girlfriend through a locked toilet door at his home believing she was an intruder.

According to this version of events, Pistorius says he heard a noise in the early hours of the morning and thought an intruder had come through a bathroom window and was hiding there.

Defence lawyers claim he felt vulnerable and he shouted for the intruder to get out and for his sleeping partner to call police.

It was dark and Pistorius thought his girlfriend was lying on her bed, not that she was in the bathroom, lawyers have argued.

He says she died in his arms, and that he was trying to protect her.

Pistorius has never denied killing her but this does not necessarily mean that he murdered her.

The Independent writes that “The enterprise of criminal law is all about fair labeling: attaching the appropriate label to conduct so that the correct and equitable sentence can follow. In South Africa murder is the intentional killing of another human being whereas culpable homicide, the lesser offence, is the negligent killing of a human being.”

Pistorius’s team will call on at least four forensic scientists, and has hired a US forensic animation firm to digitally recreate the crime scene.

On his web site he states ”No words can adequately capture my feelings about the devastating accident that has caused such heartache for everyone who truly loved – and continues to love Reeva.

The pain and sadness – especially for Reeva’s parents, family and friends consumes me with sorrow.

The loss of Reeva and the complete trauma of that day, I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

 4. What is his history?

Certain events will be focused upon during the trial including a speedboat crash in early 2009 that left him in hospital with serious facial injuries amid allegations of drinking and reckless behavior. Later that year, Pistorius was arrested after a female guest at a party at his house made a complaint of assault against him. Charges weren’t pursued.

Also two years ago he was reportedly with friends in a car pulled over by traffic police and, after an altercation, he allegedly responded as they drove away by shooting his gun angrily out the sunroof. Prosecutors will add two counts relating to him firing a gun in public to his murder and illegal possession of ammunition charges at trial.

5. What will the media coverage be like?

In one word – intense.

Hundreds of journalists have arrived in Pretoria for the trial. A judge ruled last week that certain parts of the trial will be broadcast live on TV and audio on radio.

South Africa, which had no television until 1975, will launch a channel providing 24-hour rolling coverage.

ADVERTISEMENT

Oscar Pistorius has a web site dedicated to his defence.

The defence has also launched a twitter account, @OscarHardTruth, with the strapline “Truth Shall Prevail. Innocent until Proven Guilty”.

6. Who should we watch out for?

His new girlfriend:

Reports over the weekend he has a new love interest, Leah Skye Malan.

Media reports over the weekend have named a new love interest for Pistorius with reports he is dating a 19-Year old college student named Leah Skye Malan. The paparazzi will be falling over themselves to get a shot of the new couple.

The judge:

SkyNews reports that the judge will be Thokozile Matilda Masipa, a former crime reporter who became only the second black woman to be appointed to the high court in 1988.

The lawyers:

The defence team consists of Kenny Oldwage, famous for helping acquit the man accused of killing Nelson Mandela’s great-granddaughter Zenani in a drink-driving car crash and Barry Roux who is renowned for his scarlet ties he wears in court.

The prosecutor is Gerrie Nel, known for having the Midas touch – and winning.

Steenkamp family:

June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, has indicated she will attend the trial. Her father, Barry, is expected to be at home, recovering from a near-fatal stroke

7. What are the wider implications of the trial?

This trial is expected to put South Africa under the spotlight. The country’s domestic violence record – where one woman is killed by a partner every eight hours- will be rightfully put to trial itself.

The murder rate – of 42 people a day – the same as the US (a country six times as populous) will be highlighted.

And the wealth inequities – the country’s average income is about $300 a month and an unemployment rate of 25% of the working population, contrasting with the wealth of Oscar Pistorius – will be the focus of the world’s media.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Aletta Alberts, head of content at South African cable network Multi-Choice which is selling advertising for its 24-hour channel launched for the trial.

He said “Yes it’s Oscar on trial. But it’s also South Africa”.

Watch and see the world’s biggest trial-come-media-circus come to life. Let’s just hope that through the hype justice can be done.

We will keep you updated.

00:00 / ???