After week-long adjournment, the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed with the murder accused taking the witness stand. Pistorius said he ‘was simply trying to protect Reeva.’ He promised her family that ‘when she went to bed that night she felt loved’. He also said he has suffered from insomnia and terrible nightmares since that fatal night.
Oscar Pistorius’ trial for the alleged murder of Reeva Steenkamp resumed on Monday after a week long adjournment due to one of Judge Masipa’s legal assessors being ill. The defence’s case was expected to begin with Pistorius’ testimony, as is legal tradition in South Africa, but instead the pathologist Professor Jan Botha took the stand first because of an illness in the family. Brian Webber, one of Pistorius’s lawyers, told Agence France-Presse: “We don’t have a choice. The pathologist has personal reasons for why he has to take the stand first.”
The prosecution’s pathologist Professor Gert Saayman had previously testified that the autopsy showed Reeva Steenkamp had eaten two hours before her death, so contradicting Pistorius’ claim that he and Steenkamp had gone to sleep at 10pm, but Botha argued against this, saying that â€œthe modern consensus is it (such testing of gastric emptying) is a highly controversial and inexact science.” The time of when they went to sleep is crucial because of Pistorius’ claim that he was disorientated having been asleep for five hours.
â€œProfessor 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 asked Botha. “It could have been an hour or two, or it could have been considerably longer,” Botha replied. He said that it was not possible to accurately determine the time between Steenkamp’s last meal and her death.
Botha’s testimony was followed by Pistorius taking the stand. Commencing his testimony by speaking directly to Steenkamp’s relatives, an emotional Pistorius said that there “hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family. I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I’ve caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved. I’ve tried to put my words on paper many many times to write to you. But no words will ever suffice.”
Under cross-examination from Roux, Pistorius explained how he has been taking medication since the last week of February 2013. He has been taking an anti-depressive called Supranol and a sleeping sedative called Normasin and described being â€œscared to sleep, I have terrible nightmares, I can smell blood and wake up terrified,” he said.
Pistorius also described a boating accident in 2009 which left him afraid of dying. He was in an induced coma for several days, had his jaw wired closed for five weeks and had 170 stitches in his face. Discussing his childhood, Pistorius described how his â€œmother had a lot of security concerns” and â€œkept a firearm in a padded bag under her pillow.” He also said that he never wanted to handle a firearm again.
The trial continues.