Oscar Pistorius was passionate about guns, a friend has testified, telling the court how the Paralympian had fired a gun through a sunroof and again inside a crowded restaurant.
“We had been to the shooting range before and I knew he had a big love of weapons,” Darren Fresco said in his testimony on Tuesday during the South African sprinter’s trial for shooting dead his girlfriend.
Earlier Pistorius’s defence lawyers probed a pathologist’s explosive testimony that Reeva Steenkamp ate hours before she was killed, a claim that again put the Paralympian’s version of events in doubt.
Prosecutors have levelled two counts of firing a gun in public against Pistorius, as well as the murder charge.
He faces a fourth charge of illegal possession of unlicensed ammunition.
The 27-year-old double amputee has pleaded not guilty to all four charges.
Fresco was with Pistorius when he fired a gun through the sunroof of a moving car in 2012.
Pistorius shot at a traffic light after a row with traffic police. Fresco and Pistorius’s then-girlfriend Samantha Taylor were also in the car.
“I was driving, the accused was in the passenger seat, Sam Taylor was in the back of the car, and without prior warning he shot out of the sunroof,” said Fresco.
“Once I’d flinched over to the right-hand side of the vehicle, having backed down, I saw the weapon being brought back into the car through the sunroof.”
Asked of his reaction, Fresco told Judge Thokozile Masipa: “Apologies my lady but I asked if he was ‘f***ing mad’.”
“He just laughed.”
Pistorius had reportedly been angry because a traffic police officer had touched his gun, which lay on the passenger seat when the car was pulled over for speeding.
“Then there was an altercation, a verbal altercation between the accused and the metro police officer,” said Fresco.
“‘You can’t just touched another man’s gun’,” the athlete was said to have remarked angrily.
“‘Now your fingerprints are all over the gun, so once something happens you are going to be liable,'” he said, according to Fresco.
Fresco also testified about the shooting incident at Tashas restaurant in January 2013, when his gun went off while Pistorius was inspecting the weapon.
A bullet slightly grazed the toe of another friend, boxer Kevin Lerena, who testified last Wednesday.
Pistorius then asked Fresco to take the blame, which Fresco agreed to do.
“Instantly he passed the weapon back to me, under the table, and he said ‘Please, there’s too much media hype around me at the moment, please can you take the rap?’ according to Fresco.
Questioning the pathologist
Forensic pathologist Gert Saayman told the murder trial – now in its second week – that Pistorius’s girlfriend ate at about 1am, roughly two hours before her Valentine’s Day death last year.
That contradicts the South African star sprinter’s claim that the pair were in bed asleep in his upmarket Johannesburg home for five hours before Steenkamp was killed.
At around 3am Pistorius shot the model and law graduate four times with a nine millimetre pistol in what prosecutors charge is premeditated murder but the double-amputee athlete says was an accident.
The 27-year-old claims he mistakenly shot Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, believing she was an intruder.
Saayman told the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday that an autopsy revealed Steenkamp’s stomach contained “vegetable material”.
It is the latest in a chain of witness testimony that appears to call Pistorius’s account of the fateful evening into question.
Neighbours have also testified that they heard a woman scream before the shots were fired, seemingly making it impossible Pistorius did not know where Steenkamp was when he fired the shots.
The athlete’s lawyer Barry Roux, now notorious for his aggressive interrogation style, questioned whether Saayman could say with certainty what time that Steenkamp ate.
He asked whether she could have eaten a larger meal at an earlier time.
Saayman admitted that was not an expert on “gastric emptying”, but academic studies would suggest the food had been ingested about two hours before, and pointed out he had performed between 10,000 and 15,000 post-mortems.
Saayman also testified that Steenkamp could have gone to the toilet any time within an hour of her death, offering qualified support for Pistorius’s account of events.
On Monday, Pistorius retched loudly into a blue bucket as Saayman detailed the impact of Steenkamp’s wounds.
The 29-year-old model and budding reality television star 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 hand.
Any of the head, arm or hip wounds could have caused Steenkamp’s death, Saayman said.