Defense witnesses on Monday described finding the distraught Paralympian minutes after he fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and pleading with her to survive. One even feared he may be suicidal out of grief
TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial: Neighbor Says Steenkamp Shot by Accident

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria May 5, 2014.
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria May 5, 2014. Ihsaan Haffejee—Reuters

Neighbors of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, called as defense witnesses in his murder trial, described finding the distraught Paralympian minutes after he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and pleading with her to survive

Witnesses called by the defense team of Oscar Pistorius attempted to buttress the Paralympian’s assertion that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.

On Monday, Johan Stander and his daughter Carice Viljoen, who live close to the 27-year-old athlete, testified that they arrived at his Pretoria home soon after the fatal shooting and saw Pistorius urging Steenkamp to keep breathing.

“Stay with me, my love, stay with me,” Viljoen told the court that Pistorius said to the dying Steenkamp, 29.

“I just saw blood everywhere,” she added. “He kept on egging Reeva to just stay with him.”

She added that she feared Pistorius might kill himself after emergency-response personnel asked him to fetch his deceased girlfriend’s identification. “I was scared that he might shoot himself,” Viljoen testified.

The Blade Runner — so called because of his trademark prosthetic limbs — admits to shooting four times through the toilet door of his villa home with a 9-mm pistol on Feb. 14, 2013, but claims he thought an intruder lurked within. Steenkamp was wounded in the hip, arm and head and died shortly afterward.

Stander, the manager of Pistorius’ plush housing complex, testified that Pistorius phoned him about two minutes after the shooting at around 3:19 a.m.

“I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I feel it,” Stander testified, adding that his famous neighbor was “really crying. He was in pain.”

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel has forcefully argued that Pistorius had rowed with Steenkamp on the night in question and killed her deliberately in a fit of rage. He asked Stander if he was attempting to “assist” the defense of his friend.

“I’m here to give the truth,” Stander replied. “And I think I’ve given the truth, what I saw that morning.”

Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder, but also faces lesser charges of culpable homicide, discharging firearms in public and illegal possession of ammunition. He denies any wrongdoing.

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