Prosecutors try to prove Oscar Pistorius` girlfriend ate before death

AFP| Last Updated: May 09, 2014, 00:21 AM IST

Pretoria: Prosecutors in the Oscar Pistorius trial on Thursday sought to show that his girlfriend was awake and ate approximately two hours before her death, which would contradict the Paralympian`s version of events.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel has argued that the Paralympic gold medallist shot Reeva Steenkamp in a fit of rage, in the early hours of Valentine`s Day last year.

Nel alleges that Pistorius and his girlfriend argued during the night and that Steenkamp took refuge in the toilet, where she was shot dead by Pistorius. He claims she ate after waking roughly around 1:00 am.

But earlier on Thursday, defence witness Aina Lundgren tried to cast doubt on the state`s claim, testifying under cross-examination that gastric emptying -- the speed at which the stomach digests food -- is an "inexact science".

Prosecution witness Gert Saayman, a forensic pathologist, told the court earlier in the trial that the athlete`s girlfriend ate at about 1:00 am, roughly two hours before her death.

But according to Lundgren, an anaesthesiologist, various factors including the stage in the menstrual cycle and diet pills can affect the speed of digestion.

Any attempt to determine when Steenkamp ate is "purely speculative," she said. Lundgren said the chicken stir fry dinner that Steenkamp ate contained "insoluble fibre" -- vegetables -- that may have not been digestible.

Nel questioned Lundgren`s claim, saying there was nothing about a chicken stir fry meal that would cause Steenkamp`s stomach to empty at a slower rate.

Pistorius says he was in bed asleep in his upmarket Pretoria home for five hours before he mistakenly shot 29-year-old Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, believing she was an intruder.

The 27-year-old Paralympic gold medallist shot the model and law graduate four times with a nine millimetre pistol in what prosecutors charge is premeditated murder following an argument.

The bullets Pistorius used to shoot his girlfriend are a "collector`s" item, a private ballistics expert testifying for the athlete`s defence said on Thursday.

Thomas Wolmarans said it was hard to find the Winchester Ranger bullets Pistorius used to shoot Steenkamp, in order to carry out bullet trajectory tests.

"This bullet, this one with the black tip is absolutely a collectors piece these days," said Wolmarans. "You can`t put your hands on it, I`ve tried all over."

"No firearm dealers have got the one with the black tip," he said.

Wolmarans`s evidence may support the prosecution`s case, which has worked to show Pistorius as reckless and gun-crazed.

The defence is expected to conclude their case early next week, after the state has completed its cross-examination of their witnesses.

In a court adjournment, Pistorius, wearing a dark grey suit, sat by his defence team, flicking through papers, and occasionally looking into the public gallery.

His sister Aimee, wearing a black blazer and white shirt, sat in silence by her brother`s side.