An emotional Oscar Pistorius became physically sick in court as he listened to harrowing testimony about the autopsy of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom he is accused of murdering.
Sitting in the dock, the visibly shaken Olympian retched and heaved into a blue bucket as a pathologist gave a detailed post-mortem account of the multiple bullet wounds Pistorius admits inflicting.
University of Pretoria pathologist Gert Saayman said on Monday the double-amputee sprinter shot Steenkamp with “Black Talon” hollow-point bullets, which mushroom open like a jagged flower on contact to cause maximum tissue damage.
Pistorius, 27, says he fired four shots at Steenkamp on February 14, 2013 through a locked toilet door, believing her to be an intruder. He denies intentionally killing her.
Saayman – whose testimony the media has been banned from directly reporting – told the court how Steenkamp was struck four times with three bullets from Pistorius’s nine millimetre pistol.
Steenkamp was hit once in the top right of her head, once in the right elbow and once in the right hip. She was also struck in the webbing of her left hand.
The 29-year-old model and law graduate also sustained injuries from bone fragments, bullet fragments and fragments of the wooden door.
The pathologist said Steenkamp could have died from either of the wounds to her arm and hip.
After being shot in the head, she would not have been able to breathe more than a few times and would likely have fallen unconscious, said Saayman.
Pistorius broke down as he listened to the nature of his girlfriend’s injuries, retching loudly and his shoulders visibly shaking. The court briefly adjourned to allow the athlete to recover.
“Mr Roux, can you just attend to the accused, not sure what’s happening?” Judge Thokozile Masipa said, addressing Pistorius’s lawyer.
In the public gallery Pistorius’s aunt Lois took off her glasses, closing her eyes for an extended period. His coach Ampie Louw sat still staring at Saayman, as the sound of vomiting continued.
When the court session finished for the day, Pistorius remained bent over in the dock. His older brother Carl and younger sister Aimee comforted him as he tried to regain his composure.
Some 10 minutes later, the runner’s sister took him by the arm and led him out of the courtroom.
Saayman also revealed that Steenkamp probably ate two hours before her death, seemingly contradicting Pistorius’s account that the two went to bed at 10pm.
Judge Masipa earlier upheld a request from the prosecution, defence and the witness not to allow live audio broadcast of the post-mortem testimony because of its graphic content.
“There shall be no live broadcast of the evidence of Professor Saayman,” Masipa ruled. “That applies to Twitter.”
Blog posts were also banned.
Professor Saayman earlier asked that his testimony not be broadcast for ethical reasons.
He said the graphic nature of the autopsy report may infringe on Steenkamp’s dignity and harm unsuspecting members of the public who saw or heard the testimony.
“I think that it goes against the good morals of society for us to make information of this nature available in a manner that vulnerable or unsuspecting people in society may be exposed,” Saayman told the court.
Earlier in Monday’s hearing, Pistorius’s defence sought to undermine the state’s assertion that the sporting hero told a security guard “everything was fine” after he shot his girlfriend.
Last week, in testimony that cast doubt on Pistorius’s claims of a “tragic accident,” security guard Pieter Baba told the court that after he was informed that gunshots were heard coming from the runner’s house, he phoned Pistorius, who told him “everything is fine”.
But Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux argued it was his client who phoned security first and his actual words were “I’m okay”.
“I prove to you the fact was Pistorius phoned first and you returned that call very shortly,” said Roux.
But Baba, wearing an orange plaid shirt, stuck to his version of events, insisting that “Mr Pistorius told me that everything is fine”.