Oscar Pistorius

Pistorius vomits when hearing details of girlfriend’s bullet wounds

Pathologist details the wounds sustained by runner's girlfriend when shot

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 5:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 9:01pm

Oscar Pistorius vomited in the dock and retched repeatedly and loudly at his murder trial yesterday as he heard graphic details of the injuries sustained by the girlfriend he shot.

Reeva Steenkamp was shot with bullets designed to expand on impact and cause maximum damage, the pathologist who performed her autopsy testified after he identified the type of bullet from fragments in Steenkamp's skull.

Twitter is not allowed. Blogging is not allowed

Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial was on Tuesday set to hear more details on the autopsy of his slain girlfriend, a day after the star sprinter threw up as he listened to a graphic account of the gunshot injuries he inflicted on his lover.

Forensic pathologist Professor Gert Saayman was due to wrap up his testimony in the High Court before defence lawyer Barry Roux will start with cross-examination.

Professor Saayman's testimony was not broadcast or reported live on Twitter by journalists because of its explicit content under an order from Judge Thokozile Masipa. However, journalists were allowed to report the testimony without directly quoting the witness' words.

Watch: No live broadcast of autopsy testimony in Pistorius trial

The double-amputee runner, hunched over on a bench, vomited when he heard the description of Steenkamp's wounds, prompting Masipa to briefly halt the testimony to ask chief defence lawyer Barry Roux to attend to his client. The judge also asked whether Pistorius was able to understand the proceedings. Roux said Pistorius' reaction was not going to change. A bucket was placed at his feet.

After court adjourned for the day, Pistorius sat for a few minutes with his hands over his ears and his body heaving and bent forward as his brother held a hand on his back.

Saayman stood for much of his testimony, referring to photographs that were not shown to the gallery as he described bullet wounds on Steenkamp's body, one to the right side of the head, one to the right arm and one to the right hip area. He also described exit wounds caused by the bullets and other abrasions and discolouration of the skin, consistent with the impact of a bullet fired through a wooden object such as a door.

Saayman said that each of the three main gunshot wounds Steenkamp suffered could have been fatal in isolation. Steenkamp's right arm was also broken and she had multiple skull fractures, both because of the effect of bullets, Saayman said.

There was another wound on one of Steenkamp's hands, Saayman said. Steenkamp, a model and personality on a television reality show, was wearing a pair of sports shorts with a Nike logo, a former sponsor of Pistorius, and a black undershirt when she was shot, he said.

Partially digested vegetables in the model’s stomach also suggested she ate less than two hours before her death around 03am.

Pistorius’s defence team will have to explain how his lover ate two hours earlier if the couple had gone to bed at 10pm the previous evening, as he has said.

His lawyer Barry Roux, notorious for his aggressive interrogation style, is expected to question the conclusion that Steenkamp ate in the early morning hours.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder for 29-year-old Steenkamp's shooting death before dawn on February 14, 2013. Pistorius, 27, says the killing was accidental.

Earlier, prosecutor Gerrie Nel, supported by Roux, said Saayman's testimony would have an "explicitly graphic nature" and should not be shown around the world.

Masipa then announced a ban on live audio, video and social media broadcasting

"Twitter is not allowed. Blogging is not allowed," Masipa said.

Key testimony

According to pathologist Professor Gert Saayman's autopsy report, Steenkamp suffered four gunshot wounds: to the right-hand side of her head; her right hip; her right elbow; and her left hand. Any of the bullet wounds to Steenkamp's head, hip or elbow could have caused her death, according to Saayman.

The bullet which hit Steenkamp's head fractured her skull and entered her brain. She would have lost consciousness and stopped breathing quickly. The bullet wound above Steenkamp's right elbow shattered her upper arm and she would not have been able to use it if she had survived. The hip wound would have affected her balance. Steenkamp also had injuries from bullet fragments, wood splinters from the door and pieces of her own bone.

Pistorius fired Black Talon bullets, particularly lethal ammunition made by US-based firm Winchester. The bullet opens on impact, greatly increasing tissue damage.

At the start of the day, under cross-examination, security guard Pieter Baba insisted he telephoned Pistorius first after the shots. Defence lawyer Barry Roux insisted phone records clearly showed the athlete made the initial phone call.

Under tough questioning, Baba stuck to his version of events. He said Pistorius had said "everything is fine", despite an earlier statement in which he stated the sprinter had said "I'm okay" when the security guard spoke with him after the shooting.

Agence France-Presse