Sun, Mar 09, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Pistorius trial hears damaging testimony

AP, PRETORIA

In a day of potentially damaging testimony, a former girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius said at his murder trial on Friday that he once shot his gun out of a car sunroof and later cheated on her with the woman he killed last year.

And a security guard recalled the athlete telling him everything was “fine” after neighbors reported gunshots coming from Pistorius’ house on the night of her death.

The gripping accounts capped the first week of the televised trial of the double-amputee Olympian, whose chief defense lawyer has tried to sow doubt about the testimony of neighbors who said they heard a woman’s screams before gunshots. Proceedings have also focused on past incidents involving alleged gunplay, part of an apparent prosecution effort to portray Pistorius, 27, as a hothead who sometimes thought he was above authority.

Prosecutors say he intentionally killed Reeva Steenkamp during an argument, but he insists it was a mistake, and that he fired through the locked toilet door in his bathroom believing an intruder was behind it.

The security guard, Pieter Baba, testified that he telephoned Pistorius after the reported gunshots in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year, and that the athlete assured him in their brief conversation: “Security, everything is fine.”

Moments later, Baba said, Pistorius called him back, started crying and did not say anything and then the line went dead. It was minutes after he shot Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model.

“Not everything was in order as Mr Pistorius was telling me,” Baba recalled saying to a fellow guard as they were outside the runner’s villa.

Earlier, ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor, who cried twice during her time on the stand in the Pretoria court, said Pistorius always carried a firearm when they dated and sometimes shouted angrily at her and her friends. There were murmurs in court when Taylor said their relationship ended because Pistorius cheated on her with Steenkamp.

Taylor said she started going out with Pistorius in 2011, when she was 17 and that the relationship ended in November 2012.

She described some of Pistorius’ habits, including what side of the bed he slept on at home, the fact that he placed his gun on the bedside table or next to his prostheses on the floor at night and how he would balance against things if he was walking on his stumps.

Pistorius was born without fibula bones because of a congenital defect, and his legs were amputated when he was 11 months old. He ran on carbon-fiber blades and is a multiple Paralympic medalist. He also competed at the London Olympics, but did not win a medal.

Taylor described one occasion in which Pistorius fired his gun out of a sunroof soon after a policeman stopped their car for speeding. She also mentioned another incident in which she and Pistorius were followed by a car as he drove home.

“When we arrived at his estate, he jumped out of the car with his gun and held it to someone’s window, and then they drove away,” Taylor said.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux raised the possibility that Pistorius was trying to protect Taylor, though she said did not feel threatened.

Taylor also described problems in her relationship with Pistorius.

“He cheated on me with Reeva Steenkamp,” Taylor said.

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