Oscar Pistorius‘ trial resumed on Monday, but the athlete did not take the stand first as expected.
Instead pathologist Prof Jan Botha was the first witness called by the Paralympian’s defence team when the murder trial reconvened. The change in the schedule was requested by the expert witness because of “personal difficulties”.
Oscar is not required to testify over the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but legal experts indicated that his testimony would be crucial to proving his claim that it was a tragic mistake.
In March proceedings were postponed for over a week by Judge Thokozile Masipa because one of her legal assistants was sick.There is no jury under South African law and the judge will decide the case with the help of her two assistants.
So far there have been 15 days of dramatic evidence with the sprinter breaking down and being taken ill on several occasions.
The court heard from witnesses called by the prosecution who described screaming and then gunshots. Oscar’s neighbour Dr Johan Stipp, a radiologist who was the first on the scene after hearing cries for help, also told how he tried in vain to assist the model.
“Oscar was crying all the time,” said the doctor. “He was praying to God [saying] ‘Please let her live.’ He said, at one point while he was praying, he would dedicate his life and her life to God if she would only live and not die that night.”
Much of the evidence was simply too harrowing for Reeva’s mother June: she chose not to attend key days of the trial or left court for the most difficult testimony. Her husband Barry stayed away altogether, after suffering two strokes brought on by stress.
In an inteview June said attending the first day of court had been “very traumatic, very hard” – but she had forgiven Oscar over the killing.
“I’m not a person who hates another person,” she said. “One has to forgive otherwise I will sit with all that anger and I don’t want it to burn me up. One has to forgive. We’ll never forget.”