Pistorius breaks down, retches as girlfriend’s wounds are described during murder trial

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius reacts in the dock during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday.
SIPHIWE SIBEKO | REUTERS
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius reacts in the dock during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday.
Posted March 10, 2014, at 8:21 p.m.

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius broke down sobbing and retching in court Monday as a medical examiner described the gunshot wounds his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp suffered when he allegedly killed her in his home on Valentine’s Day last year.

The Paralympian gold medalist’s brother and sister tried to console Pistorius as he cried and made loud retching sounds in the accused bench during his premeditated murder trial today in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying he thought she was an intruder in his bathroom.

“You need to attend to Mr. Pistorius,” Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa said, addressing Defense lawyer Barry Roux. “I’m not sure what’s happening.”

Steenkamp died of multiple gunshot wounds through an object such as a door, Gert Saayman said, adding that she was wearing loose clothing at the time of her death. Masipa ruled earlier that the testimony of Saayman, the head of the forensic medicine department at the University of Pretoria, not be broadcast or be sent as posts on Twitter. Saayman requested his evidence not be streamed live because it was too graphic.

Pistorius used Black Talon hollow-point bullets, which Saayman described as “an expanding bullet” that’s designed to cause “maximum tissue damage.”

The gunshot wound to the head was incapacitating and almost instantly fatal, Saayman said. Steenkamp probably didn’t breathe more than a few times after the head injury, he said.

Wearing a pinstripe charcoal-colored suit, Pistorius sat on the accused bench in front of family members in the wood-paneled court. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.

Masipa will give final judgment after the scheduled three-week trial because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. Pistorius, who’s also facing three gun charges, has been free on $93,000 bail since February last year.

The trial entered a second week today after the prosecution portrayed the athlete as usually armed and reckless with a hair-trigger temper.

Roux disputed evidence of Pieter Baba, a security guard at the Silver Woods Country Estate where Pistorius lived, who testified Pistorius had initially said, “Everything is fine” when he spoke to him on the phone after neighbors had called for help. The athlete then called back and was crying, Baba said.

The athlete called Baba first, phone records of the morning show, Roux said in court Monday.

Roux has argued that the screams neighbors heard were those of Pistorius after he realized he had shot Steenkamp through the toilet cubicle door, and that some of the gunshots they recalled were the noise of the accused breaking down the locked door with a cricket bat. The prosecution says Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp at 3:17 a.m. after an argument, during which she screamed for help.

Roux has tried to discredit testimony of neighbors about the timing of screams and gunshots and of an ex-girlfriend who said Pistorius always had a gun next to his bed and carried one with him whenever he could.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel may call more than 100 witnesses. About 20 people who live or work near Pistorius’s home in the capital city may give testimony in a trial broadcast live on radio and TV. Apart from the murder charge, Pistorius faces two counts of illegally firing a gun in public and one of illegally possessing ammunition.

The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.

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