AS HIS girlfriend lay dying, a weeping and praying Oscar Pistorius knelt at her side and struggled in vain to help her breathe by holding two fingers in her clenched mouth, a witness told a South African court.
“I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her,” radiologist Johan Stipp recalled Pistorius saying.
A few minutes later, Mr Stipp said, Pistorius went upstairs – to the bathroom area in his home in Pretoria where he had shot Reeva Steenkamp – and then returned. At that point, Mr Stipp said he was concerned the gun used in the shooting had not been recovered and that a distraught Pistorius was going to harm himself.
The testimony was the first detailed, public description of the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, by the Paralympic champion on 14 February last year.
At his bail hearing last year, Pistorius said in a statement read by his lawyer Barry Roux that, after he realised he had shot Ms Steenkamp, he pulled on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the toilet door before finally giving up and smashing it in with a cricket bat.
Inside, he said he found Ms Steenkamp slumped over but still alive. He said he lifted her bloodied body and carried her downstairs to seek medical help.
“It was obvious that she was mortally wounded,” Mr Stipp said as he described what he saw at Pistorius’ villa.
Doctor Stipp said that he tried to save her by opening an airway.
Sitting on a courtroom bench, Pistorius bent forward and put his hand over his face, then moved his hands to cover both ears, as Mr Stipp gave evidence at the murder trial. The sportsman stayed that way for a while, even when one of his lawyers reached back and, in a gesture of reassurance, touched him on the head.
“I went near her and as I bent down, I also noticed a man on the left kneeling by her side,” Mr Stipp said under questioning by prosecutor Gerrie Nel in the Pretoria courtroom.
Mr Stipp, who said he did not know that man was Pistorius until later, said Ms Steenkamp showed no signs of life. He said he noticed a wound in her right thigh, in her upper arm and in the right side of the head, and there was brain tissue around the skull.
Pistorius, 27, is charged with shooting Ms Steenkamp three times out of four shots through a toilet door in his home.
Prosecutors said the athlete intentionally killed Ms Steenkamp after an argument, but Pistorius says it was a mistake and he thought she was an intruder who had broken into his bathroom.
“Oscar was crying all the time,” Mr Stipp said. “He was praying to God, ‘Please let her live’. Oscar said he would dedicate ‘his life and her life to God’ if she would live.”
Pistorius, who ran at the 2012 Olympics on his prosthetic legs and who was known as the Blade Runner, is charged with premeditated murder.
Mr Roux, Pistorius’ lead defence lawyer, started the fourth day of the trial by cross-examining another neighbour and questioning whether the man heard a woman screaming and then gunshots on the night Ms Steenkamp died. The neighbour, Charl Johnson, said he also owned a gun, a 9mm pistol, and knew what gunfire sounded like.
“I can confidently say I heard gunshots,” Mr Johnson insisted.
Mr Roux says the banging sounds were actually Pistorius hitting the toilet door with a cricket bat and the screaming was the distressed athlete calling for help – and there were no sounds from Ms Steenkamp who had been shot in the head.
Pistorius denies all the charges. The trial continues.