As the Winter Paralympics kick off in Sochi Russia, former member athlete Oscar Pistorius sits trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The former spirit runner for South Africa, Pistorius was a national hero who fell from grace when he shot and killed model, Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.
While Pistorius has never denied the responsibility of Steenkamp’s death, he pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder, claiming it was an accident. Former paralympian Pistorius told authorities he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder and shot her through the bathroom door.
“She died,” he said through tears at a 2013 bail hearing, “in my arms.” Fans around the world rallied support for the athlete, and he was released on bail pending a murder trial, which began Monday this week. While the athlete had a swarm of supporters, the heart-broken family of Steenkamp wanted answers.
“Why my…girl, ” asked the 29-year old model’s mother. Steenkamp’s father, Barry, said he could grant Pistorius forgiveness, allowing he is telling the truth. However he added Pistorius will have to “live with his conscious” if he is lying. The fifth day of the current murder trial began as the paralympian’s ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, sat to offer a testimony.
Taylor described Pistorius as a nervous and angry man, who keeps a gun at his bedside. She portrayed an event where the paralympian became angry at a stop light and fired a gun out of the sunroof. But Taylor ‘s memory seemed foggy about the details of the event, and she was unable to give a time or location for her story.
After Taylor testified that her relationship ended with Pistorius after he cheated on her with Steenkamp, defensive lawyer Barry Roux questioned her fidelity. She admitted to a relationship with another man shortly after the first time the couple broke up.
The testimony shocked supporters of Pistorius, but Taylor had more to add. She also stated that during her relationship with the paralympian, he often woke her from sleep thinking there was an intruder present. She recalled a time when something hit a bathroom window and he shook her awake in fear.
Other testimonies came from friends of the athlete including boxer Kevin Lerena, who said Pistorius asked him to cover up a shooting that took place in a restaurant. Lerena said after a pistol shot accidentally went off in the Johannesburg establishment, Pistorius asked him to take the blame.
The South African paralympian dubbed, “Blade Runner,” has been paralyzed since he was eleven months old. Due to fibular hemimelia in both legs, which causes an infant to be born without the fibula, both were amputated between the ankles and knees. In the 2004 Paralympic Games, he set the world record for the 100 meter event, passing up two single amputee Americans.
Once a darling of South African sports, he is now sitting in judgement over the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. And as the Winter Paralympics begin in Russia, paralympian Pistorius sits in a trial room clutching the cool arm of a wooden chair.
By Erin P. Friar