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South Africa’s ‘Trial of the Century’

Follow our summaries in the murder trial of Olympic & Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius

Was it murder or a tragic case of mistaken identity? Those are the lines drawn between the Prosecution and the Defence as South Africa’s Golden Boy of the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, goes on trial for murder in the death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.

Facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, the 27 year old Pistorius opened the trial with a plea of not guilty, saying that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder at his house as he shot her through a bathroom door, while on his leg stumps.

Because Oscar Pistorius became such an icon of success and achievement for the global disability community, we have provided ongoing coverage of his trial in South Africa from various media sources. 

We present an archive of the coverage up to Day 18 of the trial when technical circumstances interrupted our ongoing coverage. For the latest coverage in the trial, click on the banner below. Be sure to participate in our AbledPoll in the column to the right.

AbledNews Post link Banner shows a photo of Oscar Pistorius standing in the High Court in Pretoria facing the camera with a gallery of spectators behind him. The text reads: The Trial of Oscar Pistorius: Was it Pre-Meditated Murder Or A Tragic Accident? Click here to go to our special ongoing coverage page.
Trial Day 18, Tuesday, April 8, 2014 Banner

Day 18: Oscar Pistorius Describes The Moment He Fired The Shots That Killed Reeva Steenkamp 

Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand again today and described to the High Court how in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 he had got up from bed to bring in some fans he had left outside, in order to cool his bedroom. When he heard a window opening in the bathroom, he said, he thought there was a burglar trying to get in.

Wanting to protect Ms. Steenkamp, who he claimed was not sleeping, he went to get his gun in the dark.

“I whispered to Reeva to get down and phone the police,” he said. (This is inconsistent with the statement Pistorius gave at his bail hearing: On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.”)

He said he then went into the passage without his prosthetic legs and, overcome with fear, started screaming, and shouted for Ms Steenkamp to get on the floor.

Banner - Trail Day 17, Monday April 7th 2014

Day 17: Court Resumes After A Long Break And Hears Tearful Apology From Oscar Pistorius


“I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow and the emptiness that I have caused you and your family . . . I can promise you that when she went to bed that night, she felt loved”.

For the first time, as the Pretoria High Court resumed today following a lengthy break because of the illness of a court assessor, Oscar Pistorius took the stand in his own defense and apologized to the family of Reeva Steenkamp and ‘those who knew her’. The late model’s mother, June Steenkamp, didn’t show any emotion as she sat grim-faced in the gallery.

The so-called ‘Blade Runner’ took the stand following testimony by pathologist Jan Botha, who pre-empted the tradition of the accused going first, because of ‘family health reasons’. Pistorius put his head in his hands and crouched over as Botha said the shot that hit Steenkamp’s arm was “akin to a traumatic amputation” and that she died “fairly quickly after sustaining the head wound”.

When it was time for Pistorius to take the stand, he spoke of his childhood and how his mother had kept a gun in a padded bag under her pillow because his father often traveling, and that she would sometimes wake the children because she thought their house was being broken into.

Pistorius also described how he was called to his mother’s deathbed when he was attending boarding school at the age of 15 and how she had encouraged him to be active in sports despite his disability. He also pointed out how he’s unable to stand still without his prosthetic legs saying that’s why he fired his gun because he would have been unable to defend himself or run away when he thought he’d heard an intruder.

Court recessed for the day about 20 minutes early when Defense attorney Barry Roux pointed out that Pistorius hadn’t slept the previous night and was exhausted. Testimony will resume Tuesday morning.

Banner - Trial Day 16, Friday March 28th, 2014

Day 16: Opening Of The Defense Case Is Postponed Due To Ill Court Assessor


After a two day break because the Defense requested a two-day adjournment to prepare it’s witnesses, proceedings have been postponsed until Monday, April 7th because one of the court assessors is ill.

Trial Day 15, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Banner

Day 15: Prosecution Rests After Steenkamp Texts Reduce Pistorius To Tears


 “My Lady, learned Assessors, this is the State’s case.” With these words, prosecutor Gerrie Nel announces to the the judge in the High Court in Pretoria that the State has wrapped up it’s case against Oscar Pistorius after 15 days of testimony over three weeks from 21 out their original list of 107 witnesses.

Lead Defense attorney Barry Roux then asked the Court for an adjournment until Friday to give him time to consult with witnesses on the Prosecution’s list who were not called and would now be free to testify for the Defense, which would include some of the first people on the scene following the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

Day 15 also saw the Defense cross-examine police Captain Francois Moller about text messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp to also show the loving and supportive messages that made up about 90% of the sms exchanges the police retrieved from Steenkamp’s phones.

First a summary of Day 15 from ABCNews’ Matt Gutman, followed by analysis of the Presecution’s case by ABCNews Legal Affairs anchor Dan Abrams and HLNTV’s Nancy Grace. You can also watch the full video recordings of Day 15 in the column at the right.

Trial Day 14 Monday, March 24th, 2014 Banner

Day 14: Text Messages Expose A Troubled Relationship And A Scared Steenkamp


Day 14 of the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed today after the Prosecution requested a recess last Wednesday.

And after testimony earlier in the day from Anette Stipp, who backed-up the previous testimony of her husnamd, Dr. Johan Stipp, that they both heard two sets of gunshots and the distinct screams of both a man and a woman in the early morning hours of February 14th, 2013, the Prosecution dropped a bombshell by revealing a series of text messages between Pistorius and his late girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The most damning of the messsages rertieved from Steenkamp’s phone by police Captain Francois Moller read, “I’m scared of u sometimes and how u snap at me and of how u will react to me”, while another message from Steenkamp to Pistorius read, “I can’t be attacked by outsiders for dating u AND be attacked by you, the person I deserve protection from.”

Cpt. Moller testified he was able to retrieve over a thousand messages from, WhatsApp and other texting applications from two iPhones, two iPads, a Macintosh computer and two Blackberry phones. He tried to access information on Pistorius’ locked iPhone for months and met with officials at Apple in the United States just before the trial started on March 3. Pistorius claims he forgot the password to his phone.

First a video summary of Day 14 from ABCNews, followed by the most important recovered text exchanges between Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp.

Summary of Selected Text Messages Recovered Between Steenkamp & Pistorius


January 11, 2013:

OP to RS: Angel please don’t say a thing to anyone. Darren told everyone it was his fault. I can’t afford for that to come out. The guys promised not to say a thing.

RS to OP: I have no idea what you talking about 🙂

RS to OP: But thank u for telling me I appreciate it x


January 19, 2013:

RS to OP: Baba

OP to RS: Yes.

RS to OP: There are a lot of things that could make us both feel like s**t.

RS to OP: I’m just very honest

RS to OP: I won’t always think before I say something just appreciate that I’m not a liar.

OP to RS: I know. It was just when you got back from tropica you made it sound like you had only smoked weed once and then last night that came out. I don’t know how many times you took or if you took other things or what you did when you were on them

RS to OP: I’m sorry if it upset you it wasn’t my intention

OP to RS: I do appreciate it. could never be with someone that was

RS to OP: Me neither

RS to OP: It’s like I see rabbit things in your house and when we go places you take pics of them everywhere. For me I’m thinking who do you have that connection with? And the same things will play on your mind. At the end of the day this is now not then

RS to OP: I wasn’t a stripper or a ho

RS to OP: I certainly have never been a prude and I’ve had fun but all innocent and without harmful repercussions.


January 27, 2013: Editor’s Note: We’ve inserted paragraph breaks for ease of reading.

RS to OP: I’m not 100% sure why I’m sitting down to type you a message first but perhaps it says a lot about what’s going on here. Today was one of my best friend’s engagements and I wanted to stay longer I was enjoying myself but it’s over now.

You have picked on me incessantly since you got back from CT (Cape Town) and I understand that you are sick but it’s nasty. Yesterday wasn’t nice for either of us but we managed to pull through and communicate well enough to show our care for each other is greater than the drama that attacked us.

I was not flirting with anyone today. I feel sick that you suggested that and that you made a scene at the table and made us leave early. I’m terribly disappointed in how the day ended and how you left me.

We are living in a double standard relationship where you can be mad about how I deal with stuff when you are very quick to act cold and offish when you’re unhappy. Every 5 seconds I hear how you dated another chick. You really have dated a lot of people yet you get upset if I mention ONE funny story with a long term boyfriend.

I do everything to make you happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with u. You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people. I have been upset by you for 2 days now. I’m so upset I left Darren’s party early. SO upset. I can’t get that day back.

I’m scared of you sometimes and how u snap at me and of how you will react to me. You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other bitch you may know trying to kill your vibe. I am the girl who let go with u even when I was scared out of my mind to. I’m the girl who fell in love with u and wanted to tell u this weekend.

But I’m also the girl that gets sidestepped when you are in a s**t mood. When I feel you think u have me so why try anymore. I get snapped at and told my accents and voices are annoying. I touch your neck to show u I care and you tell me to stop. Stop chewing gum. Do this don’t do that. You don’t want to hear stuff cut me off. Your endorsements your reputation your impression of someone innocent blown out of proportion and f***ed up a special day for me. I’m sorry if you truly felt I was hitting on my friend Sams husband and I’m sorry that u think that little of me.

From the outside I think it looks like we are a struggle and maybe that’s what we are. I just want to love and be loved. Be happy and make someone SO happy. Maybe we can’t do that for each other. Cos right now I know u aren’t happy and I am certainly very unhappy and sad.

OP to RS: Please let me know when I can call you

RS to OP: I’m here

OP to RS: I want to talk to you. I want to sort this out. I don’t want to have anything less than amazing for you and I. I am sorry for the things I say without thinking and for taking offense to some of your actions. The fact that I’m tired and sick isn’t an excuse. I was upset that you just left me after we got food to go talk to a guy and I was standing right behind you watching you touch his arm and ignore me. And when I spoke up you introduced me which you could’ve done but when I left you just kept on chatting to him when clearly I was upset.

I asked Martin to put on that Kendrick Lamar album in the car and don’t know it. Granted that it was a s**t song but you should’ve just lent forward and whispered in my ear to change it seeing as I had to drive to pick up your friend. I was 30 minutes late and I know you don’t like it when I drive fast but then you could’ve asked Gina to drive herself so that we wouldn’t have to.

When we left I was starving the only good I had had was a tiny wrap and everyone was leaving for lunch. I’m sorry I wanted to go but I was hungry and upset and although you knew it, it wasn’t like you came to chat to me when I left the table. I was upset when I left you cos I thought you were coming to me.

I’m sorry I asked you to stop tapping my neck yesterday, I know you were just trying to show me love. I had a mad headache and should’ve just spoken to you softly. In sorry for asking you not to put on an accent last night pretty much the same and didn’t have the energy.


February 8, 2013

RS to OP: I like to believe that I made you proud when I attend these kind of functions with you. I present myself well and can converse with others while you are off busy chatting to fans and friends. I also knew people there tonight and whilst you were having one or two pics taken I was saying goodbye to the people in my industry and Fitz wanted a photo with me.

I was just being cordial by saying goodbye whilst you were busy. I completely understood your desperation to leave and thought I would be helping you by getting to the exit before you because I can’t rush on the heels I was wearing. I thought it would make a difference in us getting out without you getting harassed anymore.

I didn’t think you would criticize me for doing that especially not so loudly so that others could hear. I might joke around and be all Tom boyish at times but I regard myself as a lady and I didn’t feel like one tonight after the way you treated me when we left.

I’m a person too and I appreciate that you invited me out tonight and I realize that you get harassed but I am trying my best to make you happy and I feel as though you sometimes never are, no matter the effort I put in.

I can’t be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you — the one person I deserve protection from.

Trial Day 12 - Monday March 18th, 2014 Banner.

Day 13: More Grisly Ballistics Testimony & Prosecutor Seeks Recess


Day 13 of the Oscar Pistorius trial saw more testimony by, and cross-examination of ballistics expert Captain Christiaan Mangena who told the court that Reeva Steenkamp was standing behind the bathroom door and facing the door when she was first shot.


The first of the ‘black talon’ type of bullets fired by Pistorius,( that open-up like a razor-sharp flower petal upon impact), hit her in the hip and shattered her hip bone. The impact of the bullet knocked her onto a magazine rack in the toilet chamber.


The second shot missed, but the third pierced Steenkamp’s right arm as she crouched on the floor with her arms crossed in front of her and her hands covering her head.


The fourth and final bullet tore through one of Steenkamp’s hands and slammed through her skull, causing her to slump forward to the right with her head resting on the toilet seat.


Mangena’s testimony that Steenkamp was standing when she was first shot was supported by a subsequent witness – Colonel Ian van der Nest, a blood spatter expert. Contrary to the defense assertion that the victim was sitting down and using the toilet at the time, van der Nest said the damage to the elastic on her shorts proved she was wearing them at the time the first bullet tore into her hip.


Testifying that he was initially brought in to analyze the theory that Pistorius hit Steenkamp in the head with a cricket bat before shooting her, van der Nest said he couldn’t find any evidence of that.


Subsequently, that  may be one of the reasons why Prosecutor Gerrie Nell asked for a court recess until Monday to re-examine ‘our case’ and confer with the four or five more witnesses he plans to call out of the original list of 107. That could raise the possibility of Oscar Pistorius possibly taking the stand as early as next week.


A summary, now, of Day 13 in court from ABCNews, while you can view or listen to a courtroom video summary of the full proceedings in the column to the right.

Trial Day 12 - Monday March 18th, 2014 Banner.

Day 12: Oscar Pistorius ‘Broke Every Rule Of Gun Safety’ – Firearms Expert


The 12th day of the Oscar Pistorius trial consisted mostly of technical testimony and a lot of back and forth wrangling between Defense Attorney Barry Roux and witnesses who were part of the police investigation.


One of those witnesses, Captain Christiaan Mangena, walked the Court through his use of lasers to trace the trajectory of the bullets Pistorius fired through his bathroom door, and testifying that three of the four rounds that pierced the door did not hit the other side of the bathroom because they ended up lodged in Reeva Steenkamp’s body.


During Mangena’s description of Steenkamp’s wounds, the victim’s mother June Steenkamp looked over at the ‘Blade Runner’ who hunched over with his head in his hands, as he has done through most of the graphic testimony in the trial.


ABCNews interviewed the man who devised South Africa’s gun safety test who said that Oscar Pistorius had “broken every rule” of gun safety the night he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door. That interview is contained in ABC’s summary of Day 12 in the trial:

Trial Day 11 - Monday March 17th, 2014 Banner.

Day 11: Oscar Pistorius’ Own Word Come Back To Haunt Him


In a written firearms test, Oscar Pistorius indicated he understood the safety requirements of using a gun and wrote that the only scenario where he would fire his gun was if two armed men charged him in his own home with no security gate between them.


That revelation came in testimony from Sean Patrick Rens, a firearms broker who also told the High Court that Pistorius had ordered seven handguns and shotguns in the months before he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The late mother’s model was in attendance for the 11th day of testimony, but quickly left the courtroom when photos of the crime scene showed Pistorius with Steenkamp’s blood on his shorts and prosthetic legs.


We have two summaries of Day 11 in court – the first from ABCNews reporter Matt Gutman, and the second from SABC Digital News in South Africa:

Trial Day 10, Friday, March 14, 2014 Banner

Day 10: Defense Takes Aim At Faulty Police Handling Of Evidence


It was a grueling day on the witness stand for the commanding officer who led first responders at the home of Oscar Pistorius the morning that Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead.


Former police Colonel G.S. (Schoombie) van Rensburg made the investigation at the crime scene sound like a bumbled operation full of evidence contamination as well as theft. From one ballistics expert not wearing gloves while handling the gun Oscar Pistorius used to shoot his girlfriend, to body searching other officers after an expensive wristwatch owed by Pistorius went missing, van Rensburg pointed out police bungling that could come back to haunt prosecutors.


He also testified he ordered the bathroom door to be placed into a body bag and taken to his office saying, “The door is the most valuable evidence because the deceased was behind the door.” Van Rensburg resigned from the force in December after three decades, under fire for his handling of the door.


Asked what he now did for a living, he choked up and said, “I am now coaching sports, and sports is my life.”


Here is an ABCNews Digital Special Summary of the day’s proceedings, including in-depth analysis from Dan Abrams, ABCNews Chief Legal Affairs Anchor:

Trial Day 9, Thursday, March 13, 2014 Banner

Day 9: Graphic Photos Of The Victim Shock The Courtroom


This was not a day for the squeamish or faint of heart in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa as close-up photos of a dead Reeva Steenkamp accidentally popped-up on a screen during the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius.


A loud gasp was heard from the gallery, and, once again, the Olympic and Paralympic track star cried and vomited into a bucket as the photos appeared on the computer screen next to him.


He then sat with his head in his hands holding sheets of paper over him. After pulling himself together, Pistorius asked why the images were being shown and asked for computer screen in front of him to be turned off. His sister Aimee, who was also crying, left her seat in the public gallery to comfort her brother in the dock.


The close-up photos of the victim inadvertently popped up twice as prosecution witness, former  police Colonel G.S. (Schoombie) van Rensberg, once of the first emergency personnel to arrive on the scene, testified that he saw Reeva Steenkamp’s bloody body covered in towels.


A report on the day in Court and legal analysis from ABCNews:

Trial Day 8, Wednesday, March 12, 2014 Banner

Day 8: Prosecution & Defense Collide Over Forensic Evidence


A police witness for the Prosecution gave a dramatic re-enactment of how Oscar Pistorius likely used a cricket bat to break open a bathroom door after shooting his girlfriend, who he claims he mistook for an intruder.


A replica of Pistorius’ bathroom was set-up in the High Court, and the actual door from the house was mounted into the bathroom door framing. Contradicting a previous statement by the Olympic/Paralympic Blade Runner, Col. Johannes Vermeulen referenced the markings on the door and the actual cricket bat used that night to show that Pistorius was on his stumps, not his prosthetic legs when he struck the door. He also pointed out that whoever made a second strike on the door was in a different position.


The Defense then accused police of mishandling evidence and not properly securing the door before the trial. Defense attorney Barry Roux also said they neglected to test a third mark on the door that he claimed was caused by Pistorius kicking it with his prosthetic leg because traces of the door were on the leg.


Here’s a video summary of the day’s proceedings from ABCNews and the full video record of the day in Court is in the right column.

AbledNews Banner Trial Day 7, Tuesday, March 11th 2014

Day 7: Friend Testifies Pistorius Enraged When Police Officer Touched His Gun


A friend who was named in previous testimony about Oscar Pistorius discharging a gun in a restaurant took the stand today and gave his version of events about another incident involving the Olympic/Paralympic star and gunfire.


Darren Fresco told the Court that Pistorius yelled at a police officer for touching the so-called Blade Runner’s gun, saying the officer would be liable if anything happened with the gun because his prints were now on the weapon. 


After driving away from the traffic stop, Pistorius fired the gun through the car’s sunroof.

Fresco testified, “Without prior warning, he shot out of the sunroof. I flinched … It was right next to my ear. I asked him, ‘Are you f****** mad?’ He just laughed.” 


Pistorius’ previous girlfriend, Samantha Taylor testified about this same incident when she took the stand last week. But in contrast to her evidence, in which she said that Pistorius and Fresco talked about shooting out a traffic light, Fresco said the shot took him completely by surprise. It’s a discrepancy the Defense will use to try to discredit Fresco as an unreliable witness.


A summary, now, of the day’s events in Court from ABCNews, and the complete video record of the testimony is in the right side column.

Trial Day 6 - Monday March 10, 2014 Banner

Day 6: Oscar Pistorius vomits as pathologist reads post-mortem report


The second week of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius saw the Olympic and Paralympic track star retch and vomit in Pretoria’s High Court as pathologist Professor Gert Saayman gave a graphic account of the fatal injuries Reeva Steenkamp suffered as she was shot in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day, 2013.


Live broadcast of the testimony had earlier been banned by the judge. Professor Saayman, who performed the autopsy, testified that Steenkamp was shot three-times – in the head, arm and hip.


As the pathologist described the injuries in detail, saying any of the wounds could have killed, because the ‘black talon’ type of bullets used are designed to cause maximum tissue damage because they open up like a razor-sharp flower-petal upon impact, observers in the courtroom saw the defendant’s body jerk and heard him retch, vomit and break down in tears which lead the judge to halt proceedings briefly and a bucket was placed next to Pistorius. 


Professor Saayman also contradicted the account by Pistorius – that the couple had been in bed for several hours before he claimed he was awoken by an intruder – by revealing that Steenkamp had eaten within two hours of being shot. He also said the wound to Steenkamp’s skull indicates that the bullet came from an elevation higher than her head, suggesting she was not standing when she was shot – and intimating that Pistorius likely had his prosthetic legs on.


As ABCNews reports, proceedings started far less dramatic this morning with the cross examination of security guard Pieter Baba. Roux showed Baba phone records of the evening on Feb. 14, 2013 when Pistorius shot Steenkamp showing that Pistorius first phoned security and that the guard phoned him back moments later when they got disconnected.


Baba testified that he phoned Pistorius after receiving calls from other residents. He told the court Pistorius told him “Security, everything is fine,” but he could hear everything was not fine as it sounded like the athlete was crying. According to the security guard, Pistorius phoned him moments later but was too distraught to speak and simply hung up.

Trial Day 5 - Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 5: Oscar Pistorius does not scream like a woman & other testimony from ex-girlfriend


Testimony got personal on Day 5 of the Oscar Pistorius trial as the Olympic and Paralympic star athlete’s former girlfriend took the witness stand. Samantha Taylor, requesting that her image not be broadcast, responded to the suggestion that Pistorius screams like a woman – a key argument of the defense – to which she replied ‘not true’.


Taylor, who met Pistorius in 2010 when she was 16, started a relationship with him via Facebook, and broke up in November 2012 after she said ‘he cheated on me with Reeva Steenkamp’ by taking her to a sports banquet.


Pretoria’s High Court had to adjourn twice as Taylor broke down and cried when the breakup was mentioned.


She told the Court that Pistorius had a fiery temper and that he had screamed at Taylor and her friends and it was definitely the scream of a man. The defense is trying to steer the suggestion that the screams neighbors testified they heard were actually those of Pistorius and not Steenkamp.


Taylor also recounted an incident where Pistorius had fired a gun at a traffic light through the sunroof of a moving car after they, and friend and fellow witness Darren Fresco had been pulled over for speeding.


Earlier in the day, the defense cross-examination of neighbor Dr. Stipp continued as he held his ground against tough questioning. The day closed out with testimony from a security guard from the gated community. Here are summaries of Day 5 from CNN and NBCNews:

Trial Day 4, Thursday, March 6, 2014 Banner

Day 4: Another neighbor testifies about hearing gunshots and finding Oscar Pistorius praying over the body of Reeva Steenkamp


Day 4 of the Oscar Pistoria trial heard testimony from Dr. Johan Stipp, another neighbor of the Olympic and Paralympic sports star, who also said he heard gunshots in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, and after making sure it was safe, went to help. Dr. Stipp said when he got to Mr Pistorius’ house, he found the sprinter kneeling beside Ms. Steenkamp with “his left hand on her right groin, and his right hand – the second and third fingers – in her mouth”.


Pistorius told him, “I shot her,” “I thought she was a burglar.” Dr. Stipp went on to explain, “Oscar was crying all the time . . . he was praying to God [saying] `Please let her live.'”


Before the trial was adjourned until Friday, Dr Stipp also testified that he saw a bathroom light on at the Pistorius house and a figure moving from right to left as a woman screamed.


The defense is trying to make the case is that all the screams came from Mr Pistorius.


Here is a summary of Day 4 from South Africa’s SABC News, followed by a more lengthy summary and discussion from eNCAnews in South Africa via Google Hangouts as Online Editor Sashni Pather discusses Day 4 of the trial with reporters Dianne Hawker and Lenyaro Sello:

Trial Day 3 - Wednesday March 5, 2014 Banner

Day 3: Defense breaks down husband of first witness | Friend tells of previous shooting 


The third day of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial saw Defense lawyer Barry Roux force an admission from Charl Johnson, the husband of first witness Michelle Burger, that he and his wife did discuss how many shots they heard and the timing of those shots when Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.  


Day 3 also saw testimony from South African professional boxer Kevin Lerena that Pistorius asked a friend named Darren Fresco to take the blame after the so-called ‘Blade Runner’ accidentally discharged a pistol Fresco passed to him under a table at a restaurant in Johannesburg one month before the death of Reeva Steenkamp. The court heard that a child was sitting nearby.


Here is a summary of  Day 3 in court from South Africa’s SABC News. You can follow real-time playback of the events in the courtroom on Day 3 in the column to the right.

Trial Day 2 - Tuesday March 4, 2014 Banner

Day 2: Defense grills first witness | Second witness describes hour-long argument before fatal shots


The second day of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial saw defense attorney Barry Roux continue to grill the first prosecution witness, Michelle Burger, the neighbor who said she heard screams and four gunshots in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day last year when Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend of three months, Reeva Steenkamp, for an intruder.


A second witness and neighbor of Pistorius, Estelle van der Merwe said she heard loud voices arguing for about an hour and had to cover her head with a pillow to try and get back to sleep. She testified she heard four sounds, but couldn’t be sure what they were.


Burger’s husband, Charl Johnson, backed-up her testimony as Defense lawyer Roux suggested that she was mistaken in saying that she heard a woman screaming and that it was actually Pistorius shouting for help in a high voice after accidentally shooting Steenkamp.


Giving sometimes grisly details of the killing of the 29-year-old model, Roux said Steenkamp was shot in the head, which would have resulted in brain damage and “no cognitive function” and so she wouldn’t have been able to scream just after the last bullet struck, as Burger testified.


Roux said that an expert would later testify in the trial that “with the head shot, she (Steenkamp) would have dropped down immediately.” Burger disagreed. “I heard her voice just after the last shot,” she said. “It faded away.” Her husband, Charl Johnson, also later testified that “the last scream faded moments after the last gunshot was fired.


Here is a summary of  Day 2 in court from CNN, followed by a real-time playback of the events in the courtroom on Day 2 from South Africa’s

Trial Day 1 - March 3, 2013 Banner

Day 1: Oscar Pistorius pleads Not Guilty | Neighbor tells of ‘blood-curdling’ screams


Was it murder or a tragic case of mistaken identity? Those are the lines drawn between the Prosecution and the Defence as South Africa’s Golden Boy of the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, goes on trial for murder in the death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.


Facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, the 27 year old Pistorius opened the trial with a plea of not guilty.


His claim that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder at his house as he shot her through a bathroom door, while on his leg stumps, faced an immediate challenge as a next-door neighbor opened testimony for the Prosecution.


Michelle Burger, whose bedroom is 580 feet from the Pistorius house, testified in Afrikaans through an interpreter that she and her husband were awakened by a woman’s terrible screams. She said, ‘You could hear it was blood-curdling screams. You can’t translate it into words – the anxiousness in her voice and fear – it leaves you cold.’ 


Then, she told the court, she heard one short fired, then a pause, followed by three rapid shots.


Defence attorney Barry Roux tried to counter the damaging claim by suggesting the shots Burger heard could have been the sound of Pistorius trying to break down the bathroom door with a cricket bat. Roux would become the target of derision and scorn in social media when he subsequently suggested that Pistorius sounds like a woman when he is screaming and that perhaps that’s what Burger heard.


On cross-examination, Burger stood her ground saying ‘I did not hear crying and I did not hear the cricket bat. I can only testify on what I’ve heard.’


After court was adjourned for the first day, the Pistorius family sat in court until the victim’s family had left the courtroom.


The so-called ‘Blade Runner’ had been an inspiration for the disabled community and other amputees around the world. Born with a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs, a condition that also affected American Paralympic athletes Aimee Mullins and Jessica Long.


In the case of Pistorius, both legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. Years later, he would become the first amputee sprinter to win a world track medal at a regular meet – in this case, the 2011 World Championships in Athletics.  


Pistorius then became the first double leg amputee to compete with his trademark carbon-fiber curved running blades in the regular Summer Olympics in 2012, and subsequently the Summer Paralympics the same year winning gold and silver medals and setting world records, as he earned the nickname ‘The Blade Runner’.


When asked for his ‘sporting motto’ Pistorius told a journalist ‘You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.’


We’ll present ongoing coverage of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius which may last up to six weeks with more than 100 witnesses to be called. Here is a summary of Day 1 from the BBC:

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