Pistorius: Reeva 'died while I was holding her'

Last Updated 09 April 2014, 10:18 IST

Oscar Pistorius returned to the witness stand today, giving horrifying testimony about his vain attempts to stem girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's blood loss and save her life using plastic bags and utility tape.

"I was really trying to stop the bleeding, I was really trying to help Reeva breathe," said Pistorius, still struggling to retain his composure on a third day of testimony.

"I was trying to hold Reeva's head with my hand to put pressure on it," he said, outlining the brutal and ultimately fatal results of gunshots to the hip, arm, hand and head.

"Reeva had already died while I was holding her," he said. "There was nothing more I could do for her."

Pistorius returned to the stand after breaking down uncontrollably yesterday while testifying that he fired four shots at Steenkamp through a toilet door, and then found her lifeless body.

Pistorius claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, but has been charged with her murder on Valentine's Day last year.

"I was overcome with fear," the athlete had testified in a trembling voice.

"Before I knew it, I'd fired four shots at the door," he said, describing his actions after he thought an intruder had made a noise in the bathroom in the dead of night.

Pistorius has been called as a witness in his own defence.

Today he continued with a first-hand account of what happened after emergency responders arrived.

It is possible prosecutor Gerrie Nel will start cross-examination later in the day, in what would likely be a tough experience for the 27-year-old.

Pistorius faces a life sentence if found guilty of murdering 29-year-old Steenkamp.

The Olympian's initial evidence focused on countering the prosecution's portrayal of him as reckless and obsessed with fast cars and guns. From Monday defence lawyer Barry Roux had gently painted the portrait of a young man marked by a fatherless childhood, the early death of his mother, physical disability and recurring crime.

Pistorius had begun his second day of testimony with a description of how he met the vivacious law graduate and how they quickly grew closer.

Roux also dealt with three other unrelated charges against the accused: firing a gun through a moving car's sunroof, then again in a crowded restaurant, and also the possession of illegal ammunition.

Though these might not have come before court in different circumstances, it is possible prosecutors added them to the murder charge to attempt a character sketch of Pistorius.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. Pistorius is likely to remain on the stand most of the week as his extensive testimony is expected to be followed by gruelling and lengthy cross-examination.

In the five weeks since the trial began, the world-famous Paralympian has appeared fragile and sometimes annoyed, frequently crying in court.

He was physically sick when the gruesome details of Steenkamp's death were discussed.

The model's mother June has sat impassively in the public gallery throughout his testimony, even when the sprinter turned to her and apologised Monday for killing her daughter.

His lawyer Barry Roux said he would call up to 17 witnesses in his case to testify on ballistics, urine emptying, damage to the toilet door, sound, and "disability and vulnerability".

Eventually set down for three weeks, the trial could run until mid-May, possibly even longer.

(Published 09 April 2014, 10:18 IST)

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