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Oscar trial: Pistorius to have his say

Emsie Ferreira

Oscar Pistorius will take the stand in his murder trial, his defence team has confirmed.

Oscar Pistorius. (AFP)

"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius will take the stand in his televised murder trial, his defence team confirmed on Tuesday as the state closed its case against the paralympic athlete after 15 days in court.

"I don't think we have a choice. The question is when," Brian Webber told reporters at the high court in Pretoria when asked if Pistorius will testify.

Minutes earlier, prosecutor Gerrie Nel told Judge Thokozile Masipa: "If it pleases the court, My Lady, learned assessors, this is the state's case."

Nel did so after leading evidence this week about intimate text messages Pistorius exchanged with Reeva Steenkamp that attested to strife in their relationship before he shot her on Valentine's Day last year.

But many other messages, it emerged on Tuesday, were affectionate and suggested the couple were eager to resolve their differences.

In a message Steenkamp sent Pistorius on January 27, she wrote: "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me."

'Double standard'
The model and law graduate complained that Pistorius had been cold and hypercritical towards her, concluding that they were "living in a double standard relationship". 

"I do everything to make you happy and you do everything to throw tantrums ..."

Transcripts of the messages were read out by police cellphone expert Captain Francois Moller who downloaded 1 709 messages the couple sent each other and readily conceded under cross-examination from Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux that at least 90% of these were "loving".

On January 29, the model and law graduate sent Pistorius another message reading: "Truth is, i miss you," and he replied: "I'm missing you so, so much!"

Said Roux: "So there was a disagreement but if you look at the emails it was resolved very quickly."

Moller responded: "That's correct, My Lady," and, at Roux's instruction, proceeded to read a message Steenkamp sent Pistorius asking whether she could cook for him on Valentine's Day. Pistorius replied: "I'd love that, nunu".

Roux stressed that most exchanges ended with several crosses indicating kisses.

On February 11, Steenkamp wrote: "I'm always on your side but mostly pro us and the health of our relationship", and again: "I have said a small prayer for both of us".

On the same day, Pistorius sent a message reading: "I miss you one more than you miss me always", to which Steenkamp replied: "Impossible".

Denial
The state contends that Pistorius, who wept when hearing the messages read out in court, shot Steenkamp after an argument. 

The disabled sprinter denied this in his plea submission, and claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

Roux also questioned Moller on Pistorius's phone record, revealing that after shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, the athlete briefly spoke to the manager of the plush Pretoria estate where he lived and then tried to ring emergency services.

Pistorius also phoned the security post at the estate, and they called him back a short while later.

This testimony from Moller directly contradicted that of one of the state's earliest witnesses, security guard Pieter Baba, who insisted he made the first call to Pistorius, who cried but denied that anything was amiss.

The state's case has largely been built on testimony from Pistorius's neighbours who told the court they heard a woman cry for help before gunshots rang out from his house, and forensic experts who detailed the trajectory and sequence of shots through the toilet door.

Two police experts told the court Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs either when he fired the shots, or when he used a cricket bat to break down the door to reach a dying Steenkamp.

In Pistorius's version, he was no longer on his stumps when he wielded the bat.

Recalled
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On Tuesday, Roux recalled to the witness stand Colonel Johannes Vermeulen who had investigated the marks left by the bat on the meranti door. "It was explained to me that the defence found a new mark on the door which they wanted me to give my view," said Vermeulen. 

Roux pointed to a mark higher than the others, and argued that if Pistorius had been on his stumps he would not have been able to make it. But Vermeulen responded: "The difference in height is only 100, 102mm – it would not be impossible if the person was on his stumps, if he stood a little bit closer to hit a bit higher."

It appears pivotal to the state's case to prove that Steenkamp shouted after the first bullet Pistorius fired struck her in the hip, and a pathologist has testified that it would have been unnatural for her not to scream after suffering that injury, Roux is expected to contest this when he starts calling defence witnesses on Friday after a two-day adjournment.

The trial is set to conclude on May 16. – Sapa

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