Reeva's final breaths

2014-03-10 19:29
(Siphiwe Sibeko, AP)

(Siphiwe Sibeko, AP)

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Pretoria - Model Reeva Steenkamp drew a few breaths after she was shot in the head by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Monday.

Pathologist Gert Saayman told the court that Steenkamp did not take more than a few breaths after suffering her head wound.

He was testifying in the murder trial of Pistorius who shot dead Steenkamp in his Pretoria home in Pretoria on 14 February last year.

Pistorius submitted that he thought she was an intruder.

Saayman described the wound to her head as an incapacitating wound, and said there was physical damage to the brain because of a substantial fracture to the base of the skull.

However, both the injuries to her arm and her right groin or hip area could have been fatal as well, he said.

Her right hip bone was shattered and this was likely to cause immediate instability, he explained.

As Saayman spoke of the "painful wound", Pistorius bowed his head and retched.

He said Steenkamp would have collapsed and, unless she had something to grip onto, it would have been difficult to get back up.

It was also an incapacitating injury that if not operated on immediately could be fatal. He said there was a 50/50 chance of surviving the injury.

He described the wound to Steenkamp's arm as devastating. Her right arm was shattered, leaving it with no functionality.

Saayman said any of the head, arm or groin injuries could have caused her death because she needed urgent medical assistance to survive them.

Saayman said an independent pathologist appointed by the Pistorius family was present during his autopsy.

Little urine in bladder

Earlier Saayman told the high court that the post mortem report revealed that not much liquid was found in Steenkamp's bladder after she was shot dead.

It was about a teaspoon-full, said Saayman.

He said about 200ml of partially digested food, mainly vegetables with whitish cheese-like particles were found in Steenkamp's stomach.

Steenkamp had eaten about two hours prior to her death.

Saayman gave a lengthy explanation of the factors that affect a conclusion on a last meal.

He said digestion time depended on the type of food eaten, with proteins taking the longest and leaving the stomach slowly, carbohydrates taking less time, and fluids passing through quickly.

The volume of food also affected this.

A small volume such as a light meal or snack, would probably be emptied from the stomach within 90 to 180 minutes completely.

A more substantial medium meal takes two to four hours and a big meal of 1.5kg or more may remain in the stomach for as long as six hours.

Gastric emptying stopped when a person died, he said, and the food in the stomach remained there.

Steenkamp said no abnormalities were found in her stomach.

Her heart, however, just like her liver, was pale in colour as a result of blood loss, said Saayman.

Pistorius continued to retch amid proceedings, sitting with his head bowed down in the dock.

His sister Aimee, wiped tears from her eyes.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  pistorius trial  |  crime

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