News

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
5 May 2014
6:05 am

Trial takes toll on thin, greying Oscar

Ilse de Lange

Oscar Pistorius's murder trial has taken a toll on the 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympian athlete: he has been reduced to an anxious, tired, thin and prematurely greying man, battling to control his emotions.

FILE PICTURE: Paralympian Oscar Pistorius arrives at the high court in Pretoria for his murder trial on Wednesday, 16 April 2014. Pistorius says that he accidentally killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by firing through a closed toilet door, mistaking her for an intruder in his house before dawn on 14 February 2013. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Pistorius vomited, rocked and sobbed his way through the evidence of many of the State’s 21 witnesses and broke down several times when he finally took the stand in the fifth week of the trial early last month.

He showed signs of severe strain when, for five days, prosecutor Gerrie Nel hammered away at his evidence that he had “involuntarily” shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, behind a locked toilet door at his house on Valentine’s Day last year because he believed he was about to be attacked by an intruder.

He insisted they were deeply in love; had their last meal when they retired early that night; that there had never been any argument; and the terrified screams his neighbours heard, were his own anguished cries after he realised he had shot Steenkamp.

Advocate Barry Roux, for Pistorius, indicated he intended calling between 14 and 16 witnesses, including friends of Pistorius and Steenkamp, and hoped to wrap up the defence case by May 16.

Private ballistics expert Wollie Wolmarans is expected to take the stand when the trial enters its seventh week today.

The State contends Pistorius had deliberately shot Steenkamp after a heated argument; that she had her last meal two hours before her death; and was standing facing the toilet door when the first shot hit her in the hip.

Pistorius steadfastly refused to look up when photos of Steenkamp’s deadly wounds were shown and mostly sat with his thumbs in his ears when evidence about her injuries was presented.

His evidence revealed he indeed had a high-pitched voice and he gave evidence in a monotonous tone, with his voice at times rising to a thin wail of anguish.

He told the court he was on anti-depressants and medication for anxiety and insomnia, battled with nightmares and the smell of blood and often woke up in terror.

However, he also depicted himself as a person who went towards danger when he wanted to protect himself and those he loved.

In contrast to this depiction of intrepid manliness, Pistorius was acutely embarrassed when he was forced to remove his artificial legs and demonstrate just how unstable he was on his stumps. He said he usually covered up his artificial legs because he did not want people to look at what he regarded as part of his body.

He revealed an acute fear for his own safety, which made him carry his firearm with a bullet in the chamber with him at all times.

Noticeable in Pistorius’s evidence was his distrust of police and media. He testified he had not reported housebreakings and incidents when he was followed and shot at because he did not think the police would do anything about them.