Pretoria: “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame for him accidentally discharging a pistol under the table of a posh Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013, a month before he killed his girlfriend, his murder trial heard on Wednesday.
The prosecution has sought to portray the 27-year-old running star, who had his disabled lower legs amputated as a baby and uses carbon fibre prosthetic “blades” to run, as a gun-obsessed hot-head.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to the Tashas gun offence charge, and to a similar charge of putting a bullet through the sun roof of a former girlfriend’s car in a separate incident.
Testifying for the prosecution against the South African Olympic and Paralympic track star, professional boxer Kevin Lerena described how he, Pistorius and two others had been having dinner at Tashas restaurant when the gun went off.
Lerena said one of the group, Darren Fresco, had passed his pistol under the table to Pistorius, telling him there was “one up” — an indication that a round was loaded in the chamber. “A shot went off. Then there was just compelete silence,” Lerena said. “I looked down at the floor and exactly where I looked down, where my foot was, there was a hole in the floor… I had a little graze on my toe, but I wasn’t hurt,” Lerena added.
Pistorius immediately apologised to his fellow diners and checked they had not been hurt, but then turned to Fresco and asked him to take responsibility, Lerena said, testifying on the third day of Pistorius’ murder trial in Pretoria.
Lerena said Pistorius had pleaded: “Please take the blame for me — there’s too much media hype around me.” Lerena told the court on Wednesday: “When the restaurant owners came up, Darren took the blame.”
Lerena, who goes by the ring name of ‘KO Kid’, was giving evidence in relation to a lesser charge brought against Pistorius of discharging a weapon in a public place. The main charge is that he murdered his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day in 2013 by shooting her through a locked toilet door.
Pistorius had pleaded not guilty, saying it was a tragic error and he mistook her for an intruder. Restaurant owner Jason Loupis told the court 220 diners had been present at the time. A child was sitting at the table next to Pistorius, his wife Maria added in her testimony.
When the restaurant owners came up to investigate, Fresco told them the gun had fallen out of the pocket of his tracksuit trousers. “I said to him ‘What’s the first rule of owning a gun? Safety first?’” Maria Loupis said. “He said ‘Yes’ and I hit him over the head.”
Pistorius paid the bill and the group left, she added. At the Pretoria High Court, Pistorius' defence team wound up its cross-examination of a third prosecution witness who said he had heard shouts and screams from Pistorius' house before shots were fired on the night Steenkamp died.