Pistorius Trial Day 4: Oscar breaks down hearing a witness describe his girlfriend's final moments


South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius holds his face in his hand on the fourth day of his trial, as a witness gives testimony.


Marco Longari

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic sprinter on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, has cut a strong figure during his daily court appearances so far.

He has, for the most part, seemed engaged in the trial, arriving every day with a briefcase and watching the proceedings closely, all the while furiously scribbling notes to pass to his legal team.

On Thursday, in the face of testimony from Johan Stipp, a neighbor and medical doctor, the man known as the "Blade Runner" crumpled.

As Pistorius sat in the dock listening to a graphic account of his slain girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's final moments, he slumped over in tears and began dry heaving. A court orderly passed him a plastic bag just in case.

Pistorius, who became the first Paralympian to compete in the Olympics, at the 2012 London Games, is accused of premeditated murder in the shooting death of Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. He claims he mistook her for an intruder.

Stipp, a radiologist who lives with his family near the house where Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, was one of the first on the scene before Steenkamp died.

Like the three other neighbor witnesses who have testified, Stipp awoke to screams and gunfire. Unlike the others, he went over to Pistorius's house, which was nearby in the same high-security estate, identifying himself as a doctor and asking if he could help.

Inside, the athlete was kneeling at Steenkamp's side, weeping and praying.

"I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her," Stipp recalled Pistorius telling him.

Steenkamp, 29, a law graduate turned FHM model, lay at the bottom of the stairs, terribly wounded. According to the facts of the case, she had been shot several times in the upstairs bathroom, and Pistorius had carried her down the stairs.

"It was obvious that she was mortally wounded," Stipp said, describing her dilated pupils and visible brain tissue.

Hearing this testimony, Pistorius, sitting on the wooden bench in courtroom GD at Pretoria's High Court, leaned forward and covered his eyes. He then clasped his hands to his ears, as if trying to shut out all sound.

"Oscar was crying all the time," Stipp recalled. "He prayed to God, 'Please let her live. She must not die.'"

"Oscar said he would dedicate "his life and her life to God" if she lived, Stipp added, describing his desperate behavior as if he wanted "atonement."

This was the most emotional and dramatic day in the Pistorius murder trial thus far. But with eight witnesses called, and 107 listed, the proceedings have only just begun.