The first person on the scene after Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today how desperate the accused was after the shooting. Manager of the estate where Pistorius lived, Johan Stander painted a picture of a man “torn apart” and broken, pleading desperately for God to help him save Reeva Steenkamp whom he had shot four time through a closed toilet door.
“It is not something I would like to experience again,” said Stander, adding that it was difficult to describe. Clearly emotional, Stander said he would never forget the image of Pistorius carrying the slain woman down the stairs from the bathroom. “I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I feel it.” Pistorius, he said was crying as “he begged God to try and keep her alive,” displaying an “expression of sorrow and pain” in “his commitment to save the young lady’s life.”
He was torn apart, broken, desperate, pleading. Johan Stander
Stander was giving evidence for the defense whose case hinges on Pistorius’ claims that he shot Reeva because he thought she was a burglar. While he gave evidence that described Pistorius carrying the bleeding victim down the stairs, friends comforted June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother where she sat in the public gallery, in the same spot she has occupied since the trial began early March. She has missed very few court days and continues to listen intently to the evidence of every witness in her desperate hope to uncover the truth of what happened that fateful day.
Questioned by defense Advocate Kenny Oldwadge, Stander said he had been led to believe that he would give evidence for the State, and did not know why the prosecution had not called him as a witness. Recounting how he and his daughter Carise had been the first people to enter the Pistorius home in the early hours of February 14 last year, he said he lived 350 to 400 meters (1,150 to 1,310 feet) away and had not heard anything. The first he knew about the incident was when Pistorius phoned him to say he had “shot Reeva thinking she was an intruder.”
He and his daughter, Carise drove to Pistorius’ house where they found the front door slightly open. A light was “burning” and they saw Pistorius making his way down the stairs with Reeva in his arms. He said he could see clearly that she had a bleeding head wound. When Oscar Pistorius saw them, Stander said, he was visibly relieved and pleading with them to help by taking her to a hospital. “He was really crying; he was in pain.” Stander told the court they tried to calm Pistorius down, but he appeared broken and totally desperate, screaming, crying and praying.
While he was attempting to call an ambulance, Stander said he saw someone walking towards him. The man introduced himself as a neighbor, Johan Stipp, and said he was “a medical doctor,” although he added shortly afterwards that he was in fact a radiologist. Stander said he asked Stipp what he had heard, and Stipp replied that he had heard four shots, silence, screams, and then another four shots.
Evidence so far indicates that there were only four shots, and screams that have not been definitively linked to either Oscar or Reeva. Some State witnesses say they heard a woman screaming, while the defense case maintains that it was Oscar Pistorius whom they have stated screams like a woman! There has also been evidence that after he fired four shots through the locked toilet door, Pistorius tried to break down the door with a cricket bat. It has been contended by the defense that the smacks of the bat sounded just like shots fired from a gun.
Oldwadge also questioned Stander about Oscar Pistorius’ dogs, both of which were at the house when he killed Reeva. Stander said he knew both dogs and while they were “big”, they were “playful and kindly mannered.” He maintained that they were never aggressive, even on occasions when they “broke out of the house and entered the streets of the estate.”
Stander also gave evidence relating to other incidents that had happened in the estate. For instance, burglars had managed to get over a fence, using a plastic bottle to make holes in the fence; and then they got into a house and tied a woman up. On another occasion intruders got into the same house using a ladder. Then there was an incident in the same street where a television set and electronic equipment were stolen, but this was never reported to the police. Lastly, there was an incident in the same street he lived in where the person working in the house was locked in the garage and a television and electronic equipment stolen. He said he knew about these incidents because he was estate manager.
In cross-examination, Stander said Pistorius had never been armed when he visited them in their home. Previous evidence has been that Pistorius always carried a gun. Stander was also questioned about contact made with Pistorius, whom he considered a friend, and he said that while he saw him at Reeva’s memorial service and when they met the defense advocates together, they had not discussed anything at all. He confirmed that Oscar’s house was fitted with an alarm system and that Reeva knew how it worked.
Stander’s daughter Carise Viljoen also gave evidence today, though she was questioned by Advocate Barry Roux and not Advocate Oldwage. A legal advisor for a vocational recreation company, she was confident in her answers, but did break down at one point. She described Pistorius as a friend, and said that would meet for coffee in her parents’ home (where she lived at the time) or at his house, from time to time.
In the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 she said she was woken up by the sound of her dog barking. She heard someone shouting for help and realized that something was wrong. She got up, dropped the blinds and tried to hear what was happening. Eventually she got back into bed, very afraid, with her heart pounding. She said she was scared that someone would come into her bedroom and did not know how she would get back to sleep.
When her father called her to say that Pistorius had phoned to tell him he had shot Reeva by mistake, Carise went with him (driving her car) to Pistorius’ house. In her evidence she said that there were people outside, specifically a security guard and a man called Frank who worked for Pistorius. “When he (Pistorius) saw us he was frantic, he just wanted to get her to the hospital.” This is when she broke down in tears, asking the judge for a few moments to regain her composure. After a few sips of water she continued with her evidence, stating: “I just saw blood everywhere.”
Her father had stepped outside, Carise told the court, when she and Oscar Pistorius were kneeling on either side of the bloody Reeva. Wanting to stop the bleeding, she ran upstairs, “grabbed a few towels” and then ran down the stairs again. “He was praying to God to save her life,” Carise said. He was “begging and pleading with Reeva to stay with him. Clearly a broken man, he was desperate and crying out, “Stay with me my love, stay with me.” But Reeva Steenkamp was declared dead by the paramedics who arrived soon afterwards. The trial continues tomorrow.
By Penny Swift