Pistorius trial examines restaurant shooting

Athlete's character questioned as witness says Pistorius asked friend to take blame for accidental shooting.

    Pistorius trial examines restaurant shooting
    Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp [AP]

    Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame after a pistol was accidentally fired in a Johannesburg restaurant weeks before the athlete fatally shot his girlfriend, a witness said at Pistorius' murder trial.

    Boxer Kevin Lerena gave evidence on Wednesday that the restaurant shooting happened when he, Pistorius and two other friends were in a restaurant in the Melrose Arch area of South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, in January 2013.

    My lady, I am convinced the sound I heard was gunshots.

    Charl Johnson, witness

    One friend, Darren Fresco, passed his gun to Pistorius under the table and told him that there was a bullet in the chamber, according to Lerena.

    A shot then went off, puncturing the floor near Lerena's foot, he said.

    "There was just complete silence," Lerena said, adding that he was in shock because his toe was grazed by the bullet.

    According to Lerena, Pistorius apologised and then asked Fresco to take responsibility for the gunshot before the restaurant's management approached the table.

    "Just say it was you. I don't want any tension around me,” Lerena quoted Pistorius as saying. “There's too much media hype around me.”

    Lerena said they paid the bill, left the restaurant and never spoke about the incident until two days after Pistorius shot and killed his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

    Lerena said he woke up to find over 100 missed calls on his telephone from global media outlets trying to contact him to discuss the restaurant shooting.

    Evidence in question

    Pistorius claims he accidentally shot Steenkamp thinking she was an intruder, but prosecutors allege his actions were intentional.

    Earlier on Wednesday, chief defence lawyer Barry Roux sought to undermine the prosecution's evidence given by a couple who said they heard a woman's screams and gunfire on February 14, 2013, the night that Pistorius killed Steenkamp.

    Charl Johnson and his wife Michelle Burger gave evidence to hearing a woman screaming, a man shouting for help and then gunshots.

    During his cross-examination of Johnson, Roux said telephone records will show that the banging sounds the neighbours heard were not gunshots, but Pistorius breaking down the toilet door with a cricket bat after realising he had shot Steenkamp when she was in the bathroom.

    "There is only one thing you could have heard, because it coincides precisely," Roux said to Johnson. "That was the time that he [Pistorius] broke down the door [with the bat]."

    Pistorius murder trial adjourned

    Johnson replied, addressing the judge: "My lady, I am convinced the sound I heard was gunshots."

    Pistorius, 27, was a globally admired athlete whose career peaked when he ran in the 2012 Olympics.

    He was born without fibula bones because of a congenital defect and his legs were amputated when he was 11 months old.

    He has run on carbon-fibre blades and is a multiple Paralympic medallist.

    SOURCE: AP


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