By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times
PRETORIA, South Africa — Samantha Taylor, blond with dark eyeliner, cut a slight, nervous figure on the witness stand Friday in Pretoria’s High Court. Taylor, who began dating South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in 2011 at age 17, broke down weeping several times when asked in court about breaking up with him in 2012.
Pistorius stared coldly at his ex-girlfriend, whom he dropped for model and lawyer Reeva Steenkamp, as she took the witness stand, smiling uncertainly.
Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year when he shot her through the closed door of the toilet, off the bathroom. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and contends he mistook her for an intruder.
Taylor’s testimony portrayed a young man with a short fuse, who would scream when angered, and who cheated on her. She testified there were several times when he screamed with rage — at her, her sister, her best friend and another friend.
According to her testimony, he never went anywhere without his pistol. He slept with it either on the bedside table or next to his prosthetic legs. He took it with him on social outings, to friends’ houses and elsewhere. When he traveled in a car from Vaal River on Sept. 30, 2012, the gun was on the back seat.
Pistorius fired a gun out of the open sunroof of the car that day after being furious at being stopped by a policeman, who touched his gun, Taylor told the court.
The incident happened when Pistorius’ friend Darren Fresco was driving. Police stopped them for speeding and reproved Pistorius for leaving a loaded gun on the seat. As the policeman picked up the gun, Pistorius lost his temper and shouted that he wasn’t allowed to touch the gun, Taylor testified.
As they continued driving, he and Fresco complained irritably about the incident. About 15 minutes later, Pistorius fired the gun out of the open sunroof.
“It was a very very loud noise,” Taylor said. “From my observation, he was angry after being stopped. Thereafter, after firing the shots, they laughed. They found it funny,” she said.
Defense advocate Barry Roux said Pistorius would deny ever firing the gun from the car. Taylor insisted that her memory of the incident was very clear.
Pistorius has also pleaded not guilty to two counts of recklessly firing a gun — one of them relating to the incident described by Taylor and another in a crowded restaurant in January 2013 — and another of having ammunition without a license.
Taylor’s testimony also contradicted a central point in the defense case: its contention that when Pistorius screams anxiously, he sounds like a woman.
“That is not true,” she told the court. “When he screamed, it sounded like a man.” The defense argues that witnesses who testified they heard a woman screaming the night Steenkamp died, actually heard Pistorius screaming.
Pistorius, she testified, kept two cell phones and an iPad with him, and often used them to send messages in bed at night.
Taylor told the court she used to sleep at Pistorius’ house four nights a week. She said there were two breakups with Pistorius. The first time, he dated a woman when he was overseas, so Taylor ended the relationship.
They later resumed their relationship, but they were having problems late in 2012. The relationship ended in early November 2012, when Pistorius “cheated on me with Reeva Steenkamp.”
Roux, for the defense, said he would produce emails that showed the relationship had ended by then. Taylor responded that they had been fighting, but the relationship had not ended.
AFP Photo/Alexander Joe