Track star Oscar Pistorius broke down in court Thursday, the fourth day of his murder trial, as a neighbor described the grisly scenes when he tried to save the athlete's girlfriend after a fatal shooting on Valentine's Day 2013.
The amputee sprinter, 27, nicknamed "Blade Runner," has pleaded not guilty to all four counts against him, saying the killing of modelReeva Steenkamp, 29, was a tragic error and he mistook her for an intruder.
In graphic testimony, witness Johan Stipp, a doctor who lived close by, said he went to Pistorius' residence after hearing shots fired. He said he saw Steenkamp mortally wounded, her brain tissue mixed with blood and Pistorius praying for her to live.
"I remember the first thing he said when I got there was, 'I shot her, I thought she was a burglar and I shot her,' " Stipp told the court in Pretoria.
He said he had arrived and found Steenkamp's body lying at the bottom of the stairs. Pistorius was bent over her body with his left hand over her right groin and two fingers of his right hand in her mouth as he tried to clear her airway.
Stipp tried to assist and said he found no signs of pulse in her neck, no peripheral pulse nor breathing movements.
As the doctor described the details of her injuries to the court, Pistorius broke down with his head in his hands. He was also seen convulsing but then recovered and wiped his face and nose with a handkerchief.
Stipp, who said he had trained in the army with assault rifles and 9 mm pistols - the gun that killed Steenkamp - said he had been surprised to hear no ambulance had been called when he arrived. He left after it did.
Lawyers are battling over whether the world-famous athlete killed his girlfriend on purpose or by mistake when he fired four bullets through a closed bathroom door at her.
He wanted her to live'
Stipp told the court he did not realize Pistorius lived in the house until the day after the shooting when his wife told him.
The doctor was later cross-examined by defense attorney Barry Roux, who has been working toward establishing that Pistorius was the one heard screaming after the shots were fired.
Roux said he had consulted three specialists and the autopsy and asked Stipp: "That person after the shots would not have been able to scream. That person would be nonresponsive, does that make sense to you as a medical doctor?"
"It does," Stipp replied.
The prosecution interjected, saying Steenkamp could have screamed after the first shot. Earlier in the week, prosecutor Gerrie Nel, reading a report from an expert, told the court that of the four bullets fired toward Steenkamp "the fourth bullet hit her in the head. She then died."
Pistorius sat impassively during the exchange between Roux and Stipp. He leaned forward, his head down in his hand, as his attorney asked Stipp if the athlete had wanted Steenkamp to live.
"He definitely wanted her to live, yes," Stipp replied. "He looked sincere to me. He was crying; there were tears on his face."
After the court adjourned for the day Thursday, Pistorius was in tears as his sister consoled him.
Witness grilled over notes
Earlier Roux had cross-examined another neighbor who testified that he heard shouting from Pistorius' house before the shooting.
Charl Johnson, husband of the trial's first witness, was back on the stand after the defense team wanted to retrieve notes he had taken in the weeks after the shooting. Roux grilled Johnson about the notes such as "the screams did not sound like fighting but more like the panic and distress calls of being attacked."
Roux established that Johnson and his wife, Michelle Burger, thought they were hearing noise from a house break-in and not from an act of domestic violence. Nel said Roux was taking individual sentences out of context.
Johnson also testified he owns the same caliber gun as the one that killed Steenkamp and he has fired a firearm before and knows what it sounds like. When Roux asked if he has heard it from the distance of one house to another, he said did not have a similar experience to relate it to but was convinced he knew what the noise sounds like regardless of distance.
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