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Friend testifies Pistorius was passionate about guns

Emsie Ferreira

A friend of Oscar Pistorius has testified that he had recklessly fired a shot from a car, and another inside a packed restaurant.

Oscar Pistorius makes notes while his friend, Darren Fresco, testifies. (AFP)

A friend of Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday testified that the disabled athlete was passionate about guns and had recklessly fired a shot from a car, and another inside a packed restaurant.

Taking the stand on day seven of Pistorius's murder trial, Darren Fresco said he swore at Pistorius in shock when the Paralympian fired a shot through the open sunroof of the car on an outing to the Vaal River.

"I apologise My Lady, but I asked him if he was fucking mad," Fresco, who was driving, told the high court in Pretoria when state prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked how he reacted.

In response Pistorius "just laughed", he said.

According to Fresco, Pistorius was furious at the time with a policeman who had stopped them for speeding and had picked up his pistol after seeing it lying on the seat. Pistorius told the policeman that "'you can't just touch another man's gun'", he said.

Fresco testified that, at Pistorius's urging, he had lied for him and taken the blame after Pistorius took his firearm and accidentally set it off in Tasha's restaurant in Johannesburg in January last year.

"There is too much media hype around me at the moment, please can you take the rap for it?" Fresco quoted Pistorius as saying. "Being a friend, I said I would," he added.

Bullet in the chamber
Fresco told the court it was his Glock pistol that blasted a hole in the floor of the restaurant but said Pistorius had over lunch asked if he could pass it to him, and he did so under the table.

He said he trusted Pistorius "to be competent ... because he had a big love for firearms" but as he handed it to him he had nonetheless leaned over and warned him that there was a bullet in the chamber.

He saw Pistorius make a shoulder movement and assumed that he was securing the firearm but a shot rang out, bringing first the restaurant owner's wife and then the owner rushing to the table.

Pistorius is facing a charge of premeditated murder over the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year and has pleaded not guilty. The state has also charged him with firearm offences and suggested that the restaurant incident showed the accused to be a man reluctant to take responsibility for his actions.

But his defence lawyer, Barry Roux, pointed out to Fresco in cross-examination that details of his testimony differed from other witness accounts of what happened in the car and in the restaurant.

Restaurant owner Jason Loupis and his wife Maria last week told the court they had come to the table in the opposite order after hearing the gunshot, Roux said. He added that Pistorius would contest his friend's testimony, and asked why Fresco had failed to mention the blame passing when he consulted lawyers before drafting a statement about the incident.

"My testimony is the truth, My Lady, that's what I remember," Fresco insisted at one point.

Discharged
He risked prosecution on ammunition and firearms-related charges but Judge Thokozile Masipa has told him that if he answered questions put to him by the defence or prosecution frankly and honestly, he would be discharged from prosecution.

Pistorius made notes and passed them to his defence team while Fresco spoke after retching in court on Monday when a pathologist testified in detail about the nature of Steenkamp's injuries.

On Tuesday morning, Roux had grilled Gert Saayman, who performed the postmortem on Steenkamp, about his testimony that she appeared to have last eaten about two hours before she died.

As Steenkamp died after 3am, this testimony seemed to contradict Pistorius's submission that the couple went to sleep around 10pm.

Roux at one point asked for an adjournment to consult scientific literature about gastric emptying, but Saayman expressed confidence that his findings were accurate.

Murky
He had, he pointed out earlier, performed or supervised between 10 000 and 15 000 medico-legal postmortem exams during his 30-year career.

Saayman testified that Steenkamp had about a teaspoon of murky urine in her bladder. He told the court that her bladder would have been empty had she gone to the toilet between 30 minutes to an hour before her death. 

Pistorius shot Steenkamp through the locked door of a toilet cubicle in his luxury townhouse in Pretoria.

He admits killing her but contends he believed he was shooting at an intruder hiding in the toilet, when he fired four shots into the door.

His neighbours have testified that on the night of the shooting they heard a woman's screams ring out from the direction of his house. Roux said the defence would prove that it was Pistorius who had screamed for help in a high-pitched, anxious voice. – Sapa

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