Oscar Pistorius, born 22 November 1986 is a South African sprint runner and convicted murderer. Both of Pistorius’ legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. He was the tenth athlete to compete at both the Paralympic Games and Olympic Games, competing in sprint events for below-knee amputees in Paralympic events, and in non-disabled sprint events.
Here are things you need to know about him.
10. When he is anxious, he screams like a girl. When things get tough, he retches.
Oscar Pistorius’s lawyer, Barry Roux, has done his client’s machismo no favours by indicating numerous times last week that his effeminate screams were an integral part of the defence. The screams witnesses heard were not the “bloodcurdling, terrified, anguished” cries of Reeva Steenkamp in fear for her life, but rather the anguished, anxious cries of Pistorius after realising what he had done. Roux put it to Pistorius’s neighbour, radiologist Dr Johan Stipp, that he would be calling a sound expert who would testify to his surprise when he heard Pistorius scream much like a woman. He also said the defence had conducted “decibel tests” that would show the similarities. When Pistorius’s former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, testified that he had screamed in her presence many times and that his voice definitely sounded like a man’s, Roux argued that she had only heard Pistorius scream in anger and never in a situation where his life was threatened. This raises the question of how the defence was able to create life-threatening conditions during their tests to replicate the Paralympian’s anxious scream.
This week, journalists felt a little queasy at the sound of Pistorius retching in court when graphic pictures of Steenkamp’s body flashed briefly on court screens, and things did not get any better when the smell of vomit started to waft through the gallery.
09. He is always packing heat and takes his cellphone to bed.
According to Taylor, Pistorius carried his firearm wherever he went. When they visited friends, his trusty 9mm would be with him. The only time he did not carry it was when he went to bed, and then he would place it within reach either on his bedside table or next to his legs, but, according to Taylor, never under the bed, which is where he claimed it was on the fateful night of Steenkamp’s death. Pistorius’s former friend, Darren Fresco, testified this week that Oscar rode in the car back from the Vaal with the gun sitting between his legs and that his former friend “loved guns”. He also apparently got angry with a metro police officer who, after stopping Fresco for speeding, noticed Pistorius’s gun on the passenger seat and emptied it. Pistorius told the officer: “You can’t just touch another man’s gun.” Taylor also testified that her ex had two cellphones, one for work and one for Facebook, and whereas at night he would leave his work phone in the kitchen, his personal phone would accompany him to bed and even to the bathroom. Taylor said she assumed he was texting and would use the phone often during the night. When asked by Roux to explain what she understood often to mean, Taylor said: “It means a lot of times.”
08. He is polite even to his enemies. Mostly.
Pistorius has been making efforts while in court to shake the hands of the people sitting on the Steenkamp family benches. On the day that Fresco testified, Pistorius tried to shake hands with Fresco’s wife, who was in tears and unwilling to accept the hand he offered to her. He has also been seen shaking the hands of members of the ANC Women’s League who have been in court, as well as the occasional journalist. But, after Fresco finished his testimony, there seemed to be no love lost between the two judging from the steely glares between them.
07. He has been known to awaken his girlfriends when hearing strange noises at night.
Under re-examination by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, Taylor was asked whether she could recall any times when Pistorius had thought he heard noises that might be those of intruders in his house. Taylor said she remembered a few times when Oscar had heard noises and awoken her before going to investigate. The noises had not resulted in any confrontations with intruders and Taylor said she could not remember any time when Pistorius had told her the next day that he had heard noises but decided not to wake her. –
06. The crime.
On Valentine’s Day 2013, Oscar shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp inside his Pretoria home. She was shot four times through the door of a toilet near the bedroom where the couple had been sleeping. Pistorius claimed he thought he was defending himself against an intruder, and did not know it was his girlfriend behind the door.
05. The Process.
Pistorius made his first appearance in court and was charged with murder the day after the shooting. More than a year later, in March 2014, his trial began in the North Gauteng High Court, presided over by Judge Thokozile Masipa. Seven months later, Masipa found him guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced him to a maximum of five years in jail.
He was immediately taken to Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in Pretoria. A short while later, state prosecutors won their bid to appeal against Masipa’s decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal. In October 2015, Oscar was released from prison after serving one year, was placed under house arrest and began community service. Then in December, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned Masipa’s finding of culpable homicide and instead pronounced Pistorius guilty of murder. Pistorius’ lawyers appealed to the Constitutional Court to review the decision, but the highest court in the land dismissed the appeal.
04. The team.
The trial has showcased some epic legal showdowns between the defence and prosecution. On behalf of the state is senior prosecutor Gerrie Nel, nicked “The Bulldog” for his tenacity and ferocity in court. He became a prosecutor in 1984, and has worked on getting Jackie Selebi convicted of corruption and getting Chris Hani’s killers convicted in connection with his murder. Defending Pistorius is defence advocate Barry Roux.
03. The families.
Family members of both Oscar and Reeva have been present in court throughout the proceedings.
Oscar’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, has played a large role, allowing Oscar to stay at his mansion during house arrest, and offering him a job at his company. Oscar’s sister, Aimee, and brother, Carl, have also stood by him, along with his father Henke.
Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, has been present at the trial from the start, while her father, Barry, was too ill to attend. Reeva’s cousin, Kim Martin, took to the witness box to testify about Reeva’s life during Oscar’s first sentencing, and Barry finally took to the stand to give a heartbreaking testimony last month.
02. The fans.
Oscar had a massive international fan base when he was a Paralympian hero. Now, most consider him disgraced, but a few loyal friends and admirers continue to offer him support despite his murder conviction.
01. The Photographs.
In a shock move, the Steenkamp family decided to make photographs of the crime scene available to the public. The gruesome images of Reeva’s bullet-riddled body were released online in June.“I want the world to see the wounds inflicted on her, the pain she must have gone through,” he said. “I want this to stop others in future.”