Oscar set off the gun then passed the blame, says boxer friend

By admin
05 March 2014

Professional boxer Kevin Lerena testified on Wednesday that Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame when he accidentally fired a gun in a restaurant weeks before he shot Reeva Steenkamp.

Professional boxer Kevin Lerena testified on Wednesday that Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame when he accidentally fired a gun in a restaurant weeks before he shot Reeva Steenkamp.

Lerena was the State's fourth witness in the sensational murder trial of the Olympic athlete in the High Court in Pretoria.

He said Pistorius apologised profusely after the gun went off in his hand under the restaurant table before asking a friend to take responsibility to spare him negative publicity.

PHOTO: instagram.com/kevinlerena Kevin Lerena. PHOTO: instagram.com/kevinlerena

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

Lerena, questioned by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, was referring to Darren Fresco, who was with Pistorius and himself at Tasha's restaurant in Melrose Arch, in January 2013.

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

He testified that 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 fatally shot Steenkamp.

Lerena said 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.

The trial is being televised live but Lerena was the first State witness to allow his face to be shown on camera since Pistorius pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder in the High Court in Pretoria on Monday.

Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux asked that the court adjourn early for lunch to give the defence team time to prepare for cross-examining the boxer, saying he had not expected him to be called to the stand on Wednesday morning.

Earlier on the third day of the trial, Roux had 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 200 metres from where they live.

Roux charged that the soft-spoken IT expert and his spouse had tailored their 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."

'Maybe you and your wife should have stood together in the witness box'

This prompted Judge Thokozile Masipa to intervene and ask Roux: "Aren't you going a bit far?"

Roux conceded and dropped that line of questioning, before suggesting that, like his wife, Johnson had confused the sound of a cricket bat hitting wood for gunshots.

In Pistorius's version of events, he used a cricket bat to break down a locked toilet door in his house after firing four shots into it, thinking there was an intruder hiding behind it.

"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."

In addition to murder, Pistorius has 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.

The State has indicated it could call more than 100 witnesses and one of Pistorius's former girlfriends, Samantha Taylor, was seen arriving at court on Wednesday.

Taylor said shortly after Steenkamp's death that Pistorius had once fired a gun through the open sunroof of her car.

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