Oscar trial turns to restaurant shot

2014-03-05 21:57
Oscar Pistorius stands in court. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

Oscar Pistorius stands in court. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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Oscar's trial - day 3 summary

2014-03-05 17:33

We've done the hard work so you don't have to. Here's everything you need to know about day 3 of Oscar Pistorius's trial in the North Gauteng High Court.WATCH

Pretoria - Day three of the Oscar Pistorius trial saw testimony that he passed the blame when a gun went off in his hand in a packed restaurant, a month before he shot dead Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel last year singled out the incident during Pistorius's bail hearing, suggesting at the time that it showed the man accused of murdering his girlfriend had a tendency to try to evade responsibility.

On Wednesday, Nel called to the stand professional boxer Kevin Lerena who testified that a gun was passed around when he had lunch with Pistorius and two other men at Tasha's restaurant in Melrose Arch in January last year.

"I don't know for what reason, but a gun was passed under the table," Lerena said.

He told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria the gun went off in Pistorius's hand and he apologised profusely, then promptly asked his friend, Darren Fresco, to take responsibility to spare him negative publicity.

"Please Darren, just say it was you, I don't want any tension around me," Lerena quoted Pistorius as saying.

He added: "Mr Fresco said when he spoke to the restaurant owners that the gun caught on his pants. He did take the rap [blame]."

Bullet grazed Lerena's toe

Lerena said either the bullet or shrapnel had grazed his toe, but said though he was shocked he did not need medical care and ignored the incident until he was dragged into a media storm a few weeks later when Pistorius killed Steenkamp.

He received more than a 100 calls, many from foreign reporters covering the Valentine's Day shooting which could see Pistorius jailed for life for killing his girlfriend.

"I never spoke about it again. On the 16th [February, 2013] I had over 100 phone calls from the media."

Nel next called the owners of the restaurant, husband and wife Jason and Maria Loupis, who confirmed that Fresco had shouldered the blame for the shot that blasted a hole in the restaurant floor.

Jason Loupis said patrons fell silent after the gun went off, and he walked to Pistorius's table and asked what had happened.

"They all looked at me... Mr Fresco then said 'sorry Jason, my gun fell out of my pants'," said Loupis.

Cross-examination

Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux put it to Loupis in cross-examination that Pistorius had settled the bill and offered to pay for the damage caused by the shot.

But Loupis said he did not recall an offer from Pistorius for compensation.

The court adjourned for the day after the restaurant owners left the stand.

Earlier in the day, Roux continued his grilling of one of Pistorius's neighbours, State witness Charl Johnson.

Johnson and his wife Michelle Burger have both told the court that they heard a woman's petrified cries for help, followed by gun fire, on the night Pistorius shot Steenkamp in his townhouse less than 200m from where they live.

Roux charged that the couple had tailored their dramatic testimony to match each other's and to compromise his famous client.

It was uncanny, he suggested, that on the stand both had spoken of "screams fading" when these words did not appear in their written statements to investigating officer Captain Mike van Aardt.

"You have not favoured the court with a strong, independent version," Roux told Johnson.

"This court really is entitled... that witnesses come to court not contaminated. Maybe you and your wife should have stood together in the witness box."

Judge interrupts Roux

This drew a rebuke from Judge Thokozile Masipa, who asked Roux: "Aren't you going a bit far?"

Roux conceded, but went on to suggest that, like his wife, Johnson had confused the sound of a cricket bat hitting wood for gunshots.

"I understand your believing that the noises you heard were gunshots," Roux said.

"But there are problems with your belief... A man's life is at stake."

Pistorius claims that on the night Steenkamp died he used a cricket bat to break down a locked toilet door in his house after firing four shots into it because he believed an intruder was hiding inside.

He denies intentionally killing her, and on Monday pleaded not guilty to premidated murder. He has also been charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and recklessly discharging a firearm in public.

Johnson conceded on Tuesday that he and his wife had been loathe to brave the intense publicity surrounding the trial, but felt compelled to go to the police after Pistorius's bail hearing because his account of events was inconsistent with what they had heard.

On Wednesday morning, Johnson revealed that he had received a number of distressing messages after his cellphone number was read out in court on Tuesday.

In one of these, the caller inquired why he was lying about what happened on the night that Pistorius shot Steenkamp.

So far, Lerena has been the only witness who allowed his face to be shown in live broadcasts of the trial being followed by a large television audience.

- SAPA
Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  pistorius trial
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