Details of Reeva Steenkamp’s autopsy proved too much for Oscar Pistorius. The murder accused vomited as the details were read out in court.
In evidence that was ruled too distressing to be broadcast live on television, the pathologist who carried out the autopsy on Pistorius’ slain girlfriend revealed that she had been shot dead with bullets designed to mushroom upon impact and cause maximum damage.
He also revealed bruises on the body which were not associated with the shooting, caused by a “blunt instrument”.
Throughout the trial the Olympian’s lawyer Barry Roux has seemingly been able to throw much doubt on what prosecution witnesses have said but even he would have to admit that what Professor Gert Saayman told the court on Monday morning was 100 per cent accurate.
Dr Saayman, the pathologist who carried out the autopsy on the body of Steenkamp, 29, said the evidence he was about to give would be graphic and shocking.
It was. In fact, it was sickening; so much so that Pistorius vomited into a bucket as he heard it.
Pistorius, 27, is standing trial for the murder of law graduate and model Steenkamp whom he shot four times through a locked toilet door on Valentine’s Day last year.
Dr Saayman, head of the forensic medicine department at the University of Pretoria, had argued prior to his testimony that it should not be broadcast live on television in order to protect the “dignity of the deceased” and spare her family from further pain.
“I have to do what my patient would have wanted me to do,” he said.
After hearing submissions from the prosecution and defence teams — both of whom supported Prof Saayman’s request — and representation from the broadcasters covering the trial who raised freedom of speech issues, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that the evidence could not be broadcast or “tweeted” live from the courtroom and that print media should “paraphrase” the testimony using discretion.
Even with those conditions, nothing could dilute the horror of Prof Saayman’s words, or lessen the damage they caused to Pistorius’ case.
The evidence included: Pistorius had used “hollow point” bullets, designed to mushroom then splinter when entering the body, thus causing maximum tissue damage; Steenkamp’s body bore bruising not associated with the shooting; Abrasions on her body suggested she had been struck with a blunt instrument that did not break the skin;
She had been shot once in the arm, once in the thigh, and twice in the head;
One of the bullets which entered her skull may have passed through her arm first;
If not for the two head wounds she would have had a 50 per cent chance of survival;
She would have taken only one or two final breaths after the fatal head shot.
It was not only Oscar who was affected by the evidence, his brother Carl was also affected and left the court, as Judge Thokozile Masipa asked Pistorius’ lawyer Mr Roux if she should halt proceedings. Carl Pistorius had to leave the court. Pistorius was comforted by his sister Aimee.