Oscar Pistorius’ steely composure cracked on Tuesday as his murder trial heard graphic details of how his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was injured by the bullets he fired into his toilet door.
As the defence continued its efforts to discredit the state’s first witness, Michelle Burger, barrister Barry Roux read details from a medical report about where on Ms Steenkamp’s body she was struck.
Pistorius leaned forward in the dock and clasped his head between his hands as Mr Roux read out details from the post mortem, including that "some fragments of the bullet" were removed from the 29-year-old's head. At one point he covered his ears.
Dr Burger faced continued grilling about what she heard in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, including a claim that she heard Ms Steenkamp’s terrified scream just after the final shot was fired.
Mr Roux said this was physically impossible, given the final bullet had struck Ms Steenkamp in the head, puncturing her brain.
The court heard how the first bullet fired by Pistorius struck Ms Steenkamp in the right thigh and the second missed her and instead lodged in the bathroom wall.
A third shot struck her in the shoulder, while the fourth struck her head.It’s understood there is a dispute between the parties as to the order of the bullets.
Mr Roux said it will be argued that it was physically impossible for Ms Steenkamp to have continued to scream after being struck in the head by a bullet from Pistorius’ gun, especially if the sound had to travel 177 metres from the bathroom where the young model cowered.
“A person with that brain damage will have no cognitive response,” he said.
Clearly rattled by the detail, Dr Burger repeated her evidence.“Just afterwards was the last time I heard her,” she said.In the dock, Pistorius buried his head in his hands and appeared to wipe away tears. He was handed a tissue by a supporter.
A short time later Dr Burger’s evidence was complete, herself fighting back tears at having to relive the night in question.“It was awful to hear her shout before the shots,” she said, saying she was still plagued by the screams. “It’s still quite raw.”
The second witness who began just before lunch on the second day of the trial was another neighbour, Estelle van der Merwe.
Earlier, prosecutor Gerrie Nel informed the court that Dr Burger’s face had been shown during live television coverage, in direct contravention of the court’s order.
After a recess to explore the claim, the court was told the image was not a live shot from the courtroom, rather a still photograph from her university’s website.
Nonetheless, Judge Thokozile Masipa said the broadcast was a violation of the court’s ruling, which is to obscure the image of any witness who objects to being filmed.She said no photographs from any source should be revealed if a witness objects.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to a charge of premeditated murder and four other gun charges, telling the court in a defence statement on Monday that he rejected the allegations “in the strongest terms”.
The story Oscar Pistorius breaks down hearing testimony during his murder trial first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.