News World Pistorius case witnesses silent on the Blade Runner
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Pistorius case witnesses silent on the Blade Runner

Oscar Pistorius
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Darren Fresco is reluctant to speak about the incidents leading up to the shocking death of his dear friend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The South African model was killed in the Pretoria home of the Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius, on Valentine’s Day last year. Pistorius, 27, claims he accidentally shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder. The prosecution argues that Pistorius killed his girlfriend following a heated argument.

But Fresco, a key witness in Pistorius’s murder trial, was uncomfortable with the idea of opening up about Steenkamp, the best friend of his partner, Gina Myers. Fresco was apologetic but most likely advised by a lawyer to avoid speaking to the media.

“Sorry if I seem harsh but I’m not getting involved with this at all,” Fresco said, who was wary of repercussions of the case.

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius. Photo: Getty

Character portrait

Fresco, an IT network engineer from Johannesburg, was granted immunity after a shooting incident — also involving Pistorius — in a Johannesburg restaurant.

On the witness stand in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria last week, Fresco revealed Pistorius as someone who was reckless with guns.

During a troubling incident, Fresco told the court Pistorius accidentally fired a bullet into a restaurant floor last year. Fresco admittedly took the rap to avoid negative media reports of the world-famous athlete.

But Fresco’s account of Pistorius firing a shot through a car sunroof revealed an angry young man with disregard for the law.

“I apologise, My Lady, but I asked him if he was f***ing mad,” Fresco told the court.

On Fresco’s Facebook page, there are no posts about Pistorius and his actions. Facebook users are afraid to speak their minds. There is just full-blown grief for one of Fresco’s best friends – Steenkamp.

“My heart is on the verge of exploding with the pain of such a sudden loss of one of my best friends,” Fresco wrote on Facebook hours after the tragedy.

“The tears have been building and subsiding throughout the entire day. What I do know is that it’s going to be the most terrible time ahead as it takes so much time to learn to deal with the pain that has sliced through my life today.

“It feels beyond surreal to me and I am waiting to wake up from this torrid nightmare and phone you and hear your infectious laugh and life-altering smile.”

Pain of loss remains strong

Fresco’s was not the only person who was unwilling to talk. Steenkamp’s ‘Joburg dad’, Cecil Myers, the father of one of Steenkamp’s closest friends, clammed up after first speaking out against Pistorius.

Myers said he would only speak again if his daughter, Gina was willing to talk. She wasn’t. The trauma runs too deep.

Myers was reportedly the most outspoken person before Pistorius’s trial, as he revealed the track runner’s “dark side”. Myers told a reporter Pistorius would avoid conversation when he picked up Steenkamp at the Myers’ family home.

The murder trial has forced Steenkamp’s closest friends to stay mute, until the trial is over.

Hilton Botha
Investigator Hilton Botha. Photo: Getty

Strong defence

Pistorius’s defence lawyer Barry Roux ripped apart disgraced lead investigator Hilton Botha during the bail hearing in February last year.  Botha resigned from the police force soon after Roux exposed his failure to collect all evidence at the crime scene.

But after resigning from the police force, Botha’s outspoken remarks have created ripples.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Botha said: “There was no forced entry. The only place there could have been entrance was the open bathroom window, and we did everything we could to see if anyone went through it, and it was impossible.

“So I thought it was an open-and-closed case. He shot her—that’s it.”

Since Botha’s Vanity Fair story was published last year, lawyers have intervened. He’s been gagged from talking about the case ever since.

The prosecution is yet to decide whether Botha will be called to the witness stand at Pistorius’s trial.

Botha told The New Daily he was not permitted to speak about the Pistorius case – and apologised.

“Sorry but I was instructed not to talk to anyone,” Botha said.

Botha’s hands are tied on the matter. He declined to refer a lawyer to take questions.

The trial witnesses indicated they had no choice but to protect their comments in the tense build-up and during the trial of the century.

Pistorius has endured sickening testimony for days – and he is likely to continue suffering during the course of the trial.

Only Pistorius has the key to the true answers in a case that has fascinated the world.

Julie Tullberg is a PhD scholar, a former News Corp reporter and editor, and has taught journalism at Monash University’s Johannesburg campus. Julie is currently the digital journalism coordinator at Monash University.