Oscar Pistorius trial: The week he went from a hero of his nation and the world, to a gun-loving hothead

It has been a week of compelling testimony in Court D at Pretoria’s North Gauteng High Court. Tom Peck recaps the key pieces of evidence


Only Oscar Pistorius knows exactly what happened in his Pretoria apartment on the night he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp, but a week into the so-called ‘trial of the century’, his version of events stands in marked contrast to what his neighbours are convinced they heard.

For five days, the talk in Court D at Pretoria’s North Gauteng High Court has been dominated by gunshots, a cricket bat struck against a meranti wood door, and a woman’s screams. But will these noises conspire to vindicate Oscar Pistorius’s version of events, or condemn him as a liar and a killer? That is the question to be determined by a single judge.

On the evidence to date, Pistorius’s version of events does not match what his neighbours think they heard. But what his neighbours heard doesn’t match several of the near incontrovertible facts of the case.

The athlete’s case is that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder, hiding behind the bathroom door. He shot through the door four times, went back to bed, saw Reeva was not there, then bashed down the door with a cricket bat to find her dying.

But, under the most intense questioning from Pistorius’s terrifying defence counsel Barry Roux, Pistorius’s neighbours, Dr Michelle Burger, an academic at the University of Pretoria, and her husband Charl Johnson, an IT worker, would not shift one iota from their story. That they were woken in the night by the sound of a woman’s ‘blood-curdling screams’, then the sound of a man screaming for help, then the sound of gunfire, and more screams from a woman.

Why would a man scream for help before the shots had been fired? Dr Burger contested it was perhaps “a mockery”.  Pistorius covered his ears while his counsel pointedly stated that the medical evidence shows head injuries to Ms Steenkamp so extensive she would have had “no thought process, no cognitive function” and yet the neighbour claims to have heard her screams, from behind a locked toilet door, 177 metres away.

Could they have slept through the gunfire? Could the woman’s screams in fact have been Oscar’s “high pitched screams?” At one point Mr Roux has suggested we will hear from an expert witness over the matter of Pistorius’s woman-like screams. Could the gunshot they thought they heard have been Pistorius breaking down the door with a cricket bat? “I know what gunshot sounds like,” Dr Burger said. “What I heard was gunshot.”

One person who has heard Pistorius shouting is his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, a 20-year-old student and part-time model.  “I have heard him scream a few times,” she said yesterday. “It’s not true [that he sounds like a woman]. He sounds like a man.”

Trial becomes bizarre safari following wounded lion

She has heard Oscar scream at “my sister, my best friend, another friend, and his best friend”. In two moments of particularly low drama, she also broke down twice when attempting to speak of how the pair broke up owing to Pistorius’s infidelity - with Reeva Steenkamp (a suggestion Pistorius denies, and we may yet see the angry emails that prove it).

Ms Taylor was in the car when Pistorius laughingly offloaded his pistol through the open sunroof, in anger over having been stopped by police for speeding. With them that day, on their way back from the Vaal River near Johannesburg was his friend Darren Fresco, the same man who passed him a gun under a table in a restaurant a month before the killing, only for it to accidentally discharge and very nearly shoot their professional boxer friend Kevin Lerena in the foot. “I was in complete shock,” Mr Lerena said when giving evidence. “I looked down and there was a hole in the floor right where my foot had been.” Fragments of marble had cut his foot.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to both these firearms offences. The state has made him appear reckless and trigger happy. But it is a long way from there to intentionally killing his girlfriend.

If he did do that, it was made harrowingly clear how much he immediately regretted it. Another neighbour, Dr Johan Stipp a radiologist, has told of how he arrived to find Oscar praying over Reeva’s “mortally wounded” body, of how he was “screaming that he would dedicate his life to God if he would let her live.”

“I thought she was a burglar, and I shot her,” Pistorius told him, crying.

More witnesses who will attest to Pistorius’s jealous nature and furious temper are expected next week, not least the former footballer Mark Bachelor, who claims to have heard the athlete threaten to break an ex-boyfriend’s legs. We may even hear from Pistorius himself.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home