Pistorius trial discusses Steenkamp last meal
- 8 May 2014
- From the section Africa
The 27th day of Oscar Pistorius's trial has heard evidence on when Reeva Steenkamp may have eaten her last meal.
Witness Prof Christina Lundgren, an anaesthetist, described when a stomach is likely to be emptied after eating.
She said the prosecution's argument that Ms Steenkamp's stomach would have been empty if she ate when Mr Pistorius said she did was "pure speculation".
Mr Pistorius denies intentionally killing Ms Steenkamp on 14 February last year.
The South African Olympic athlete says he accidentally shot her through a toilet door in a state of panic, mistaking her for an intruder.
Social worker Yvette van Schalkwyk, who also gave evidence on Thursday, said Mr Pistorius was "heartbroken" after the killing.
'All about him'
Ms Van Schalkwyk said she was asked to accompany Mr Pistorius immediately after the shooting for "emotional support".
"I saw a heartbroken man. He cried 80% of the time," she said.
Ms Van Schalkwyk was a surprise witness who had asked to testify. She said she offered to speak after being upset by media claims that Mr Pistorius was "putting on a show" when he cried in court.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel objected, saying her evidence about Mr Pistorius' emotions were not relevant to the case.
However, Judge Thokozile Masipa said Mr Nel had questioned Mr Pistorius' emotions, and allowed the witness to continue testifying.
In his cross-examination, Mr Nel pushed Ms Van Schalkwyk to acknowledge that Mr Pistorius never said he was sorry that he had killed Ms Steenkamp.
"It's all about him," the prosecutor said. "It's not 'sorry for what I've done'."
Earlier, the court heard evidence on when Ms Steenkamp may have had her last meal.
Mr Pistorius had said the couple had dinner at about 19:00 on the evening Ms Steenkamp was killed. He said they went to sleep between 21:00 and 22:00.
The prosecution has argued that this cannot be true, as Ms Steenkamp had food in her stomach at the time of her death, in the early hours of 14 February last year.
This indicates that Ms Steenkamp ate later than Mr Pistorius said, and that this meant the couple could have been awake, and arguing, before the shooting, the prosecution says.
Prof Lundgren, who was shown copies of the post mortem report, said there were many factors that could have delayed gastric emptying in Ms Steenkamp's stomach, including sleep, exercise, medication and her age.
"One cannot state it as being fact" that Ms Steenkamp's stomach would have been empty six hours after eating, Prof Lundgren said. "I would say it is purely speculative."
In his cross-examination, Mr Nel argued that Prof Lundgren's list of factors might not apply to Ms Steenkamp, and that in normal circumstances one would expect the stomach to be empty eight hours after eating food.
If found guilty, Mr Pistorius - 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 he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.
There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.
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.
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.
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.