Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'barely coping' after shooting Reeva Steenkamp

A surprise witness told Oscar Pistorius's murder trial that the athlete was genuinely "heartbroken" after shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead.

Social worker and probation officer Yvette van Schalkwyk said she came forward as a witness when she read reports accusing the Paralympian of taking acting lessons and crying for the cameras prior to giving evidence.

Taking the stand, Ms Van Schalkwyk, who monitored Pistorius's behaviour in the weeks following Ms Steenkamp's death, said he was "barely coping" and described him as a "heartbroken man" as his defence sought to corroborate his emotions in court are real and his remorse is sincere.

"What I saw, from the first time I saw him, was a man who was heartbroken... He cried, he was in mourning, he suffered emotionally, he loved her," she told Pretoria's High Court, adding that he cried "80 per cent of the time" and vomited twice in front of her.

Continuing her evidence, Ms Van Schalkwyk said that she first met the athlete in his prison cell on 15 February, the day after the shooting, and he was traumatised and repeatedly said he "missed Reeva".

 

However, under cross examination, state prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused her of adapting her evidence and feeling "sorry for him", insisting that his emotions are "all about him" and he did not explicitly apologise for killing Ms Steenkamp.

"Being a probation officer, having done lots of reports, the first thing you look for is somebody saying 'I'm sorry for what I've done.'", Mr Nel demanded, noting that he "never said that".

Ms van Schalkwyk conceded that Pistorius did not mention the words "I'm sorry for what I did", but insisted that his emotions were those of a heartbroken man and he expressed concern for the Steenkamps and their loss.

She added: "It was never 'What's going to happen to me? Will I get bail?' That was never an issue. It was about the heartbreak of this man, the trauma, I can't state that it was all about him."

 

She denied reports that Pistorius was "suicidal" after the shooting, but insisted that he was still suffering emotional and physical reactions following Ms Steenkamp's death.

Her evidence followed that of Professor Aina Christina Lundgren, an anaesthetist, who described the state's claim that Ms Steenkamp ate shortly before she was shot dead as "speculative".

Prof Lundgren told the court a number of factors could have delayed the digestion process, including that she was a pre-menopausal woman and had been sleeping, contradicting the testimony of state pathologist Professor Gert Saayman.

At the start of the trial, Prof Saayman, who identified vegetable matter in her stomach, argued that Ms Steenkamp had her last meal no more than two hours before her death. This contradicts the athlete's claim that the couple ate together just after 7pm.

Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend following a domestic dispute in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. He claims he shot and killed his girlfriend in a case of mistaken identity, thinking she was an intruder.

South Africa does not have trial by jury, meaning Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide Pistorius' fate with the help of two assessors.

The murder trial continues.

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