By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times
JOHANNESBURG — A friend of Oscar Pistorius testified Monday that the South African Olympian appeared “broken” as he wept, prayed and begged his girlfriend not to die in the minutes after he fatally shot her on Valentine’s Day last year.
Pistorius’ murder trial resumed Monday after a two-week break, with the defense calling more witnesses.
The prosecution accuses Pistorius of killing Reeva Steenkamp in a rage after an argument. He says he mistook her for one or more intruders but was not conscious of pulling the trigger when he opened fire through the door to a toilet closet.
The former manager at the secure estate where Pistorius lived, Johan Stander, and his daughter Carice Viljoen were among the first to arrive at the house after the shooting. Both testified Monday.
Stander told the court that he was Pistorius’ friend and that they often had coffee together. Pistorius called him minutes after firing the four shots.
“Oscar said, ‘Oom (Uncle) Johan, please, please come to my house. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please, please, please come quick,'” Stander recalled.
He said the front door was ajar when he and his daughter pushed it open and walked in. They saw Pistorius carrying Steenkamp downstairs, crying.
“I just saw blood everywhere. I told him to put her down,” Viljoen told the court, weeping. “We both knelt over Reeva. He begged me to help. He was begging and pleading with Reeva as well, ‘Just stay with me my love, stay with me.'”
Stander also described Pistorius’ “broken” appearance.
“He was screaming. He was crying, He was praying,” he said.
“The expression on his face, an expression of sorrow, an expression of pain. He’s crying. He’s praying,” he continued. “It was as if he was torn apart.”
Stander suggested that Pistorius was innocent, saying he’d seen how distraught the athlete was and how he desperately fought to save Steenkamp’s life.
“I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it, and I feel it,” Stander said.
Paramedics declared Steenkamp dead about 3:50 a.m. When they asked Pistorius to retrieve Steenkamp’s identification from upstairs, Viljoen hurried after him.
“I thought he was possibly going to shoot himself, so I immediately ran up, but I was scared to go any further,” Viljoen said.
Pistorius could face life imprisonment if convicted of murder. The defense plans to call more witnesses Tuesday.
AFP Photo/Alexander Joe