A neighbour of Oscar Pistorius yesterday told how the athlete was “torn apart” and desperately tried to save his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp minutes after fatally shooting her at his home last year.
Taking to the stand as the sportsman’s murder trial began after a two week adjournment, Johan Stander, said he received a panicked phone call from Pistorius at around 3:19am on 14 February, 2013 – about two minutes after the shooting.
Pistorius told him he had thought Steenkamp was an intruder and that he had shot her and the witness described how he and his daughter Carice Viljoen went to Pistorius’ house after the double-amputee runner pleaded with him to come and help.
“I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I feel it,” Mr Stander testified, saying he believed the shooting was accidental because of Pistorius’ emotional state when they found him carrying a bloodied Steenkamp down the stairs at his villa.
Pistorius was “really crying. He was in pain”, Mr Stander, who is also a close friend of the athlete, said.
“He was asking God to help him. He was torn apart, broken, desperate, pleading,” Mr Stander said.
His own voice shook at one point and he became emotional on the witness stand. “It’s difficult really to describe.”
Mr Stander and his daughter were the fourth and fifth witnesses called by the defence as it attempted to recover from what appeared to be a shaky start and Pistorius’ own testimony, which was subjected to fierce cross-examination by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
The pair testified as the trial moved into its seventh week after a two-week recess for the Easter holidays.
Mr Stander’s daughter, Carice Viljoen, said Pistorius begged her to help him get Steenkamp into a car so they could take her to a hospital.
She said she urged Pistorius to “just put her down” so they could try and stop the bleeding. “I just saw blood everywhere.”
Ms Viljoen said she went upstairs to fetch towels to stop the bleeding. Pistorius was pleading for Steenkamp to stay alive she said. Ms Viljoen said Pistorius was saying to Steenkamp: “Stay with me, my love, stay with me.” The defence was trying to reinforce its assertion that Pistorius, 27, killed model Miss Steenkamp in a tragic error of judgment.
Pistorius says he mistook his 29-year-old girlfriend for an intruder and shot her through a closed toilet door, and then tried to save her life.
But prosecutors maintain Pistorius is lying about the perceived intruder and his story is designed to cover up that he killed the model intentionally in the midst of a heated argument.
Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted on a premeditated murder charge.
Mr Stander said he had known Pistorius since 2009 and looked after his home and dogs when the athlete was away competing.
Mr Nel asked if the friendship led him to back Pistorius’ story.
“I’m here to give the truth,” the neighbour said. “And I think I’ve given the truth, what I saw that morning.”
Earlier, Mr Stander recounted in detail the telephone call from Pistorius. “He said on the call, ‘Johan, please, please, please come to my house. Please. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please come quick,”’ he said.
The prosecution has focused on events before the killing to try and show his intruder story is a fabrication, including that he never attempted to locate his girlfriend despite knowing she was awake before walking to the bathroom on his stumps and firing four times through the door with a pistol.