Reeva's last meal discussed

2014-03-11 12:17
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Oscar Pistorius in court - day 7

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Pretoria - It was up to the court to make a conclusion on academic literature which may raise a question mark over Reeva Steenkamp's last meal, a pathologist told the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

This was after questions by murder-accused Oscar Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux, who cited studies showing variations in findings on gastric emptying, due to the type of meal, and the person.

One Monday, pathologist Gert Saayman estimated that Steenkamp last ate a meal of mostly vegetable matter, with some cheese-like protein, about two hours before her death.

The court has heard witnesses testify they heard screaming coming from his house after 03:00 on 14 February 2013.

During his bail application last year, Pistorius said he and Steenkamp were in his bedroom at his home in Silver Woods, Pretoria around 22:00 where she was doing yoga. After that they went to bed.

She was later shot dead through the door of a toilet cubicle in his bathroom. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder, saying he thought there was an intruder in the house.

‘Specific somethings’

During a snap adjournment, Roux and Saayman were seen speed-reading academic papers they had exchanged, and when the court resumed, Roux cross-examined him on the accuracy of his estimation of when the model and law graduate last ate.

Saayman, who said he had performed between 10 000 and 15 000 medico-legal post mortem examinations, said he did not consider himself an expert because of research.

He relied on reading literature for the past 30 years, as well as his personal experience and case controls.

Saayman said he could not contest anything written in the papers Roux presented, but there were a few "specific somethings" such as findings on how long it took for meals to digest.

He said gastric surgeons performed operations every day on the assumption that a stomach was empty after four hours.

Saayman did not know the volume of Steenkamp's last meal, so it was not possible to estimate what percentage had already been digested when she was shot.

Narrow field

He said the court was dealing with a fundamental issue in science and gave an example of pellets shot towards a wall.

There would be some dispersion of pellets called "flyers" but the bulk would hit in a fairly narrowly distributed field, and that was where scientists drew conclusions.

He said this narrow field did not mean the individual might not be at the periphery - that would be for the court to decide.

Pistorius is also charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and two counts of discharging a firearm in public.

He allegedly fired a shot from a pistol under a table at a Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013.

In September 2010 he allegedly shot through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein.

He pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  pistorius trial

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