Oscar Pistorius trial shifts gear

2014-03-05 21:16
Oscar Pistorius is seen in the North Gauteng High Court. (Photo24)

Oscar Pistorius is seen in the North Gauteng High Court. (Photo24)

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Oscar trial day 3 - lunchtime report

2014-03-05 13:39

Our correspondent at the North Gauteng High Court, Sipho Hlongwane, gives us an overview of day 3's proceedings so far.WATCH

Johannesburg - The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius unexpectedly shifted a gear on Wednesday, as the witness testimony shifted away from the night that Reeva Steenkamp was shot and killed in Pretoria, to the other gun incidents that the athlete must answer for.

Is Pistorius the type of person to make a mistake and then seek to place the blame elsewhere? This was the heart of the interrogation of three witnesses who were at the Tasha’s restaurant in Melrose Arch last year when a gun in his possession went off. The incident took place about a month before the Valentine’s Day shooting.

According to the first witness called to whit, professional boxer Kevin “The KO Kid” Lerena, he was in a meeting with Pistorius, a British athlete Martyn Rooney and a Darren Fresco, when the latter handed the accused a gun.

The boxer testified that Fresco said that he had “one up”, meaning that there was a bullet in the chamber. Then, the gun was handed to Pistorius under the table, and it suddenly went off. Photographs shown in court showed that the bullet went into the floor. Lerena said that it grazed his toe.

“Oscar immediately was very apologetic and said ‘is everyone okay, I’m so sorry, is anyone hurt’,” Lerena said.

Then Pistorius begged Fresco to take the blame for the incident, saying that he had far too much media attention on him to let such a thing out.

“Please Darren, just say it was you. I don’t want any attention around me… Mr Fresco spoke to the restaurant owner and said that the gun caught on his pants or something. He did take the rap,” Lerena said.

There is some doubt about what Pistorius said immediately after the shooting occurred, as Lerena testified that he was in shock, but there seems to be a certainty that he was immediately very apologetic for the incident.

Franchise owners testify

Jason and Maria Loupis, the husband-and-wife owners of the franchise, were just outside the restaurant when the shot went off. They both testified that Fresco said that his gun had fallen out of his pants and accidentally gone off.

The husband was the first on the scene, and after speaking to the men, relayed the information to his wife. She went over to investigate and received the same answer.

“I said to [Fresco] 'What's the first rule of owning a gun? Safety first?'" she said. "He said 'Yes' and I hit him over the head.”

That seemed to be the end of that, and after Pistorius paid the bill, the men left the restaurant.

Under Advocate Barry Roux SC’s cross examination, Lerena said that it was a noisy restaurant, and there could have been some hearing difficulties, but he does remember Fresco’s warning about “one up”.

But under re-examination from state prosecutor Advocate Gerrie Nel, he remembered once again that Pistorius sought to place the blame for the incident on someone else.

The boxer said that he never spoke about the incident again in order to respect those wishes, but was forced to step forward to the press in February when the foreign media began asserting that he had been badly injured in the incident.

Earlier cross-examination

Pistorius is in more trouble than merely making a friend lie on his behalf to avoid negative press. The Firearms Control Act forbids the negligent discharge of a weapon in a built-up or enclosed area, and this is the second charge that the athlete faces in this trial.

Nel dropped another spine-chilling detail: sitting close to the table where Pistorius discharged the shot, was a child.

Earlier that morning, Roux was cross-examining Charl Johnson, the husband of Michelle Burger who testified first. He too reports hearing terrible screams and shots on the night that Steenkamp was killed.

But Roux is seeking to show that these two witnesses share too many similarities in their statements and evidence-in-chief, signs of corroborated evidence.

“This court is entitled to uncontaminated witnesses,” he said to Johnson. He also sought to show that the sounds that he heard at 03:19  were in fact Pistorius banging on the door with a cricket bat, since by his own testimony, he hit the door down “soon after” speaking to a Mr Stander on the phone at 03:16.

However, Johnson stepped down momentarily in order to furnish the defence with a record of the notes he took of the night soon after that February night.

According to Roux, there are six areas of close similarity between the two testimonies, but he also pointed out one major difference: according to Burger, she was woken by the sounds of screaming. Johnson said that he was the one who woke his wife up. It will be up to the court to decide whether or not such a detail signifies the absence of intentional contamination.  

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

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