Pistorius had row with policeman over gun, friend tells trial

Verbal altercation followed flagging down of car near Johannesburg in 2012, friend testifies

South African  athlete Oscar Pistorius drinks water in the dock during his  trial for murder today in Pretoria, South Africa. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook /EPA

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius drinks water in the dock during his trial for murder today in Pretoria, South Africa. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook /EPA

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 20:39

South African track star Oscar Pistorius had a row with a policeman who picked up his gun after pulling over his friend for speeding, saying “You can’t just touch another man’s gun,” the friend told the athlete’s murder trial today.

Mr Pistorius, a double amputee, is accused of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. He maintains he shot her through a locked toilet door believing an intruder was lurking in his luxury Pretoria home.

His friend, Darren Fresco, told the court in Pretoria that he had been driving south of Johannesburg in September 2012 when Mr Pistorius, nicknamed “Bladerunner” for his carbon fibre prosthetics, and his then girlfriend Samantha Taylor, were flagged down.

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“Another officer went over to the passenger seat where Oscar Pistorius was sitting and he picked up a gun. There was a verbal altercation between the accused and the officer,” Mr Fresco said.

“Pistorius said to the officer, ‘You can‘t just touch another man’s gun,’ ” Mr Fresco said. “Then they argued.”

After being allowed to leave, Mr Pistorius “out of the blue” fired the gun through the open sunroof of the car, to the astonishment of Mr Fresco, who was driving at the time.

“Apologies for my language, but I asked him if he was f***ing mad,” Mr Fresco told the court. “He just laughed.”

In another shooting incident previously related during the trial, the 27-year-old Paralympic and Olympic star asked Mr Fresco to take the rap on his behalf after discharging a firearm inside a packed Johannesburg restaurant.

“Being a friend I said I would, with pleasure,” the long-haired Mr Fresco said.

Mr Pistorius is facing separate gun charges for the two incidents, part of the prosecution’s attempts to paint him as a cocky, gun-obsessed hothead who does not like to take responsibility for his actions.

Of the four rounds he fired through the toilet door, three hit his girlfriend, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, in the hip, shoulder and head.

Earlier, state pathologist Prof Gert Saayman told the court that food found in Ms Steenkamp’s stomach suggested she had eaten at about 1am - two hours before she died and in contradiction to Mr Pistorius’s testimony that the couple went to bed at 10pm.

Prof Saayman said Ms Steenkamp would most certainly have screamed after being shot in the arm and hip before a final shot in the head killed her.

Mr Pistorius wept and vomited several times into a bucket as Prof Saayman detailed the extent of Ms Steenkamp’s injuries the previous day.

“After the first shot on the hip, screaming would have been possible, and expression of fear or anguish,” Prof Saayman said. “It would be abnormal for someone not to scream.”

Some of Mr Pistorius’s neighbours said in their court testimonies last week they heard a woman screaming during the shooting, but Mr Pistorius’s lawyer insists what they heard were high-pitched cries from his client.

If found guilty of murder, Mr Pistorius faces at least 25 years behind bars.

The killing has ignited debate about gun control and domestic violence in South Africa, where many women die at the hands of relatives.