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Dr Johan Stipp says he raced to scene after hearing screams and found Pistorius weeping over body of his girlfriend
Oscar Pistorius trial – day four as it happened
Oscar Pistorius wept over the lifeless body of his girlfriend and “prayed to God to please let her live, she must not die”, a doctor who raced to the scene testified in court on Thursday.
The Paralympic athlete, standing trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, cried and seemingly retched as Dr Johan Stipp gave harrowing details of the model’s fatal injuries to a hushed courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa.
Stipp, a radiologist whose home is 72 metres from that of Pistorius, said he was woken early on 14 February last year by screams and gunshots. He went to the athlete’s home to investigate and found him kneeling over the body of a woman. “At the bottom of the stairs … there was a lady lying on her back on the floor,” Stipp recalled. “I went nearer and as I bent down I noticed a man on his knees on the left side. He had his left hand on her right groin and his right hand second and third fingers in the mouth.
“I remember the first thing he said when I got there was: ‘I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her.'”
Stipp continued: “I tried to assist her. So I tried to open the airway and look for any signs of life. She had no pulse in her neck, she had no peripheral pulse, she had no breathing movements that she made. She was clenching down on Oscar’s fingers as he was trying to open her airway.
“I tried to do a jaw lift manoeuvre to open the airway. It was very difficult with the clenching down, and all during that time there wasn’t any signs of life that I could see. I opened her right eyelid: the pupil was fixed dilated and the cornea was milky – in other words, it was already drying out. So to me it was obvious she was mortally wounded”.
“I looked at the rest of her body and I noted that she had a wound in her right thigh, also a wound in her right upper arm. As I looked further, I saw that there was blood and hair and what looked like brain tissue intermingled with that to the right area of her skull.”
As the clinical testimony went on, Pistorius slumped further and further forward in the dock. He cried and appeared to retch. He put a hand over his face, then moved both hands to cover his ears. He remained that way for some time, even when a member of his legal team reached back and touched him on the head.
Recalling the athlete’s reaction on the night of the killing, Stipp said: “While I was trying to ascertain if she’s revivable, Oscar was crying all the time. He prayed to God to please let her live, she must not die. He said at one stage while he was praying that he will dedicate his life and her life to God if she would just only live and not die that night.”
Cross-examined by defence counsel Barry Roux, the witness added: “He was making promises to God, he was trying to, I don’t know, maybe get atonement, but he was very distraught, severely so … He definitely wanted her to live.”
Asked by Roux if Pistorius looked like a man who was sincere or pretending to the outside world, Stipp replied: “He looked sincere to me. He was crying and there were tears on his face … He was actively trying to assist her.”
A few minutes later Pistorius went upstairs and Stipp worried that he might be suicidal. “I noticed that Oscar was going upstairs and I asked Mr Stander [the housing complex manager] if he knew where the gun was because it was obvious that Oscar was emotionally very, very upset,” he said. “I didn’t know the situation in the house so I thought maybe he was going to hurt himself.”
Prosecutors say the Paralympic and Olympic idol intentionally killed 29-year-old Steenkamp after an argument, but Pistorius, known as the “blade runner” because of his prosthetic limbs, claims he killed her by mistake because he thought she was an intruder.
Three witnesses including Stipp have now testified to hearing a woman screaming in Pistorius’s home. Roux argued that they actually heard Pistorius himself, crying for help and sounding like a woman because of anxiety in his voice.
At the end of a gruelling day, Pistorius sat forward with his head buried in his hands for several minutes, comforted by his sister Aimee who put her arms around him. The case continues.