Time of Reeva's last meal questioned

2014-04-07 11:26
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Oscar Pistorius in court - day 17

See pictures from day 17 of Oscar Pistorius's trial.

Pretoria - A forensic pathologist cast doubt on a State witness's testimony that Reeva Steenkamp ate about two hours before her death, the North Gauteng High Court heard on Monday.

"Professor Saayman testified that her last meal could have been between an hour to two hours before her death. What do you say to that?" Barry Roux, for murder accused paralympian Oscar Pistorius, asked pathologist Jan Botha.

"It could have been an hour or two, or it could have been considerably longer," Botha said. He was the first witness to testify for the defence.

Roux asked him if it was possible to determine accurately the time between Steenkamp's last meal and her death.

"I do not think so," he replied.

Roux was attempting to cast doubt on evidence by Prof Gert Saayman, who conducted the autopsy on Steenkamp, and who testified for the State previously. The State's evidence was that Steenkamp's last meal was probably around two hours before Pistorius shot her dead after 03:00 on 14 February - contradicting his bail statement that they went to bed at 22:00 the night before.

Gastric emptying

Botha earlier cautioned against using gastric emptying to determine a time of death. "It is a highly controversial and inexact science."

He said studies on which theories were based usually used a porridge-like substance, which was unlike most modern meals.

Studies suggest that a light meal takes about two to three hours to digest, a medium meal five hours and a heavy meal significantly longer. Emptying depends on factors that include calories and psychological factors.

Steenkamp's stomach contents, as described by Saayman, included vegetable matter and a white cheese-like substance.

Botha said that since a recent Canadian study, the use of gastric emptying as a yardstick to establish time of death had waned considerably.

Textbooks were now warning against using experimental evidence and extrapolating it to forensic evidence.

He said that while one could see "general trends" it was "hazardous" to extrapolate to a specific case.

Pistorius is expected to testify in his defence his week, to explain how, according to him, he accidentally shot dead his girlfriend Steenkamp through the locked toilet door of his home on 14 February last year.

Pistorius has been charged with the murder of Steenkamp and contraventions of the Firearms Control Act. He allegedly fired a shot from a Glock pistol under a table at a Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013.

On 30 September 2012 he allegedly shot through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein.

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

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.


24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.