PRETORIA (AFP) – Oscar Pistorius “had a big love of weapons”, a friend testified in court Tuesday, saying he previously saw the Paralympian fire shots at a traffic light and inside a crowded restaurant.
In testimony that painted Pistorius as reckless, disdainful of authority and with a penchant for guns, fast cars and pretty blondes, Darren Fresco said he saw the gold medallist fire shots in public on two occasions.
Pistorius is on trial charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but he also faces two charges of discharging a weapon in public and one charge of illegally possessing ammunition.
The 27-year-old athlete has pleaded not guilty to all four charges. He faces a life sentence if convicted.
Taking the stand on Tuesday, Fresco said that in 2012 Pistorius shot out of a car sunroof at a traffic light after a row with traffic police.
Fresco and Pistorius’s then-girlfriend Samantha Taylor were in the car when police pulled them over for speeding at as much as 260 kilometres (160 miles) per hour.
Pistorius reportedly became angry when an officer touched his gun, which remained on the passenger seat when he got out of the car.
“Then there was an altercation, a verbal altercation between the accused and the metro police officer,” said Fresco.
“‘You can’t just touch another man’s gun’,” the athlete was said to have remarked angrily.
“‘Now your fingerprints are all over the gun, so once something happens you are going to be liable,’” he said, according to Fresco.
After the group pulled off, Pistorius “without prior warning” fired a shot out of the sunroof, Fresco recalled.
“Once I’d flinched over to the right-hand side of the vehicle, having backed down, I saw the weapon being brought back into the car through the sunroof.”
Asked about his reaction, Fresco told Judge Thokozile Masipa: “Apologies my lady but I asked if he was ‘fucking mad’.”
“He just laughed.”
- Discrepancies and omissions -
Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux called Fresco’s testimony into question, highlighting discrepancies in his statements and between an account given by Pistorius’s ex-girlfriend.
During intense questioning, Roux also accused Fresco of deliberately leaving out key details from his statement.
Fresco, who was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, began to sweat under the pressure and is expected to return to the witness box on Wednesday.
Fresco also told the court that Pistorius asked him to take the blame for accidentally shooting a pistol in a popular Johannesburg restaurant.
Fresco said he passed his Glock 27 under the restaurant table after Pistorius asked to see it.
“I thought him being competent, I would not worry about why he had asked me to see my gun,” said Fresco, a deeply tanned man with shoulder-length hair wearing a black suit.
“We had been to the shooting range before and I knew he had a big love of weapons.”
But a bullet was fired slightly grazing the toe of another friend, boxer Kevin Lerena, who testified last Wednesday.
- Last meal -
Fresco is the latest in a chain of witnesses who have contradicted Pistorius’s version of events.
Earlier, Roux probed a pathologist’s explosive testimony that Steenkamp ate hours before she was killed.
Pistorius claims the pair were in bed asleep in his upmarket Pretoria home for five hours before Steenkamp was killed at 3:00am.
Forensic pathologist Gert Saayman told the murder trial that Pistorius’s girlfriend ate at about 1:00am.
Neighbours have also testified that they heard a woman scream before the shots were fired, seemingly making it impossible Pistorius did not know where Steenkamp was when he fired the shots.
Roux, now notorious for his aggressive interrogation style, questioned whether Saayman could say with certainty what time that Steenkamp ate.
Saayman admitted he was not an expert on “gastric emptying”, but academic studies would suggest the food had been ingested about two hours before, and pointed out he had performed between 10,000 and 15,000 post-mortems.
Steenkamp, a budding reality television star, was hit once in the top right of her head, once in the right elbow and once in the right hip. She was also struck in the webbing of her hand.
Pistorius used “Black Talon” hollow-point bullets which mushroom open like a jagged flower on contact to cause maximum tissue damage, according to the post-mortem report.
The double amputee claims he mistakenly shot Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, believing she was an intruder.