Defence team may call another pathologist

2014-04-20 15:00

Mystery surrounds the findings of the pathologist hired by Oscar Pistorius’ defence team to attend the autopsy of Reeva Steenkamp last year.

On Friday, Pistorius’ legal team broke weeks of silence to say that “media reports suggesting that [Dr Reggie Perumal] has ‘withdrawn’ from the defence team are devoid of all truth”.

This followed reports saying that Perumal would not be testifying for the defence in the Pistorius murder trial.

But defence attorney Brian Webber said that they had not yet ruled out the possibility of calling Perumal as a witness.

Pistorius’ Advocate Barry Roux has already called Dr Jan Botha, another pathologist, to testify in the case.

He contradicted evidence by state pathologist Professor Gert Saayman, who told the court that Reeva last ate about two hours before she died.

However, Botha said that “gastric emptying” – or the rate at which food is processed by the human stomach – was a “controversial and inexact science”.

Nel has used the evidence about the food in Steenkamp’s stomach to accuse Pistorius of lying to the court about what happened on the night Reeva was killed.

“It is devastating for your version that eight hours after she [had eaten], there was still that amount of food in her stomach,” said the prosecutor. Pistorius had earlier testified that they had eaten shortly after 7pm.

Nel had put it to Pistorius that, on average, the human stomach would be empty about six hours after eating.

Pistorius said he didn’t have any explanation for the food in Steenkamp’s stomach, but said it wasn’t possible that she had eaten after they had both gone to bed at around 10pm.

Nel has maintained that Steenkamp was awake and eating at around 1am when a neighbour heard her and Pistorius arguing.

Both Saayman and Roger Dixon, who this week became the third witness to testify for the defence, have said that Perumal’s report was “very similar” to Saayman’s.

If there had been a material conflict of opinion between the two, a third pathologist would have to be called in.

City Press understands that the Nel and his prosecution team have not seen Perumal’s report.

Dixon, a geologist, was widely criticised by legal commentators for testifying about subjects that were not within his field of expertise.

A highly regarded criminal defence lawyer told City Press that top experts could charge anywhere between R2?800 and R3?000 an hour. However, they often negotiated packages that could see them earn amounts in the region of R40?000 for assisting a defence team.

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