Oscar Pistorius' family denies acting coaching for trial

Oscar Pistorius becomes emotional during his trial at the high court in Pretoria on 7 April 2014. Oscar Pistorius broke down repeatedly during his testimony last week

Oscar Pistorius' family has denied he took acting lessons ahead of his testimony in the trial of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

In a statement, they say claims he had received coaching for his emotional performance were "devoid of the truth".

The South African athlete has broken down on several occasions during the trial, often disrupting proceedings.

The Paralympian denies intentionally killing Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.

He says he fired four shots through a locked toilet door out of fear, believing there was a burglar inside.

But the prosecution says the 29-year-old model and law graduate was deliberately killed after the couple had an argument.

'Faux heroes'

South African columnist Jani Allan claimed Oscar Pistorius took acting lessons ahead of his trial in an open letter to the athlete last week, saying she had heard it "from a reliable source".

"Oscar, you are the latest in a long line of faux heroes. Like so many who preceded you, you have betrayed your people and disappointed your fans," she wrote.

The Pistorius family said they felt compelled to deny the claims after they were widely circulated in the media.

In a statement on Oscar Pistorius' website, spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said Ms Allan had never met Mr Pistorius and that any knowledge she had of him was "fictitious".

"This type of comment makes a mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family," it adds.

The allegations followed seven days of emotional testimony from Mr Pistorius, who at times broke down in court and vomited when evidence from the post-mortem examination was presented to court.

A picture taken on 26 January 26 2013 shows Olympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp had been dating for three months

If found guilty, the 27-year-old - a national sporting hero and double amputee dubbed the "blade runner" because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race - could face life imprisonment.

If Mr Pistorius is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

He also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

The trial has been adjourned over the Easter period and will resume on 5 May.

INTERACTIVE
  • ×

  • 1. Balcony

    × Balcony

    Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

    He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

  • 2. Bathroom window

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

    "Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

    Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

  • 3. Shooting

    ×

    Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

    Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

    He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

    Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.

    A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

  • 4. Bedroom

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.

    Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.

  • 5. Toilet door

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

    Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

  • 6. Emergency calls

    ×

    Mr Pistorius's defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

    A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.

    A minute later he received an incoming call - estate security calling him back.

    According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.

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