Oscar Pistorius trial Day 5: Athlete depicted as having fiery temper, quick to grab gun

PRETORIA, South Africa – At the end of a week of testimony detailing the timeline of Valentine's Day morning last year – pre-dawn noises, phone records and screams – prosecutor Gerrie Nel has begun to take a different tack of portraying Oscar Pistorius.

On Friday, the state attempted to paint a picture of the man behind the star athlete's exterior: depicting him as someone with a fiery temper and disdain for authority, who likes his guns and women.

Ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor broke down on the stand as she recounted his cheating – first with a woman while competing abroad, and then with model Reeva Steenkamp – which ended their relationship.

Pistorius' shoulders visibly heaved with a sigh as defense attorney Barry Roux asked about their relationship history.

Taylor was only 17 when they began dating in 2011, but they remained in a relationship reportedly for 18 months. She described to the court the Paralympian's fits of anger, screaming at her, her sister, and their friends on numerous occasions.

Last year, after Pistorius shot Steenkamp, Taylor told a local newspaper, "Oscar is certainly not what people think he is."

The petite blonde with a heart-shaped face says Pistorius carried his gun with him everywhere, even when visiting friends, and kept it next to his bed at night. She spoke of incidents where her ex-boyfriend demonstrated a pre-occupation with security, including an evening in April 2012 where Pistorius, believing a car was following them, got out and put his gun to the window of the other vehicle, outside the gate of his housing estate.

"There was one occasion when something hit the bathroom window and Oscar woke me up and asked me if I heard it," Taylor said, "He got up with his gun."

While Pistorius awoke Taylor on that occasion and several others, she says, he did not attempt to wake or locate Steenkamp before he shot the 29-year-old model by mistake, according to his own version of events.

As Taylor gave more intimate details about their relationship, Pistorius continued furiously passing notes to his defense team.

Taylor also recounted an incident – for which the Paralympian faces charges – where Pistorius fired his gun out of an open sunroof after getting angry with police who stopped their vehicle for speeding.

"He shouted at the policeman," Taylor said, after an officer reprimanded Pistorius for leaving his gun on the seat, touching it and spilling bullets in the car. After driving away, she said Pistorius and his friend Darren Fresco joked, describing their anger towards the officer and suggesting that they shoot traffic lights, when Pistorius fired through the sunroof and laughed.

They then went on that evening to sign paperwork in relation to another firearm, Taylor says.

[Pistorius Trial: Runner emotional as chilling details emerge]

Earlier this week, the court heard Pistorius' friend, middleweight boxer Kevin Lerena, describe how the Paralympian asked Fresco to lie for him and take the blame after accidentally discharging a gun under the table of a crowded Johannesburg restaurant.

Taylor's mother Trish last year posted a note on Facebook, in the days after Steenkamp's death, suggesting Pistorius was dangerously reckless with firearms.

"I am so glad that Sammy is safe and sound and out of the clutches of that man – there were a few occasions where things could have gone wrong with her and his gun during the time they dated. My condolences to the family whose daughter has passed away. My heart breaks for you," she wrote.

Another of Pistorius' ex-girlfriends, Melissa Rom, is also on the list of 107 possible state witnesses. But on Friday, the testimony of another witness – a security guard in his luxury housing estate – also cast doubt on Pistorius' character and his concern for Steenkamp's well-being.

Pieter Baba, the security guard on duty at Silver Woods estate in the early hours of Valentine's morning last year, told the court that when he called Pistorius after he heard shots, the Paralympian answered, "Security, everything is fine."

"I realized Mr. Pistorius was crying," Baba said, "I knew everything was not in order."

Baba said Pistorius called him back moments later, but he could only discern sobs on the phone before the line was cut.

Upon arriving at the athlete's residence, Baba found Johan Stander, the estate administrator, and his daughter, and Pistorius descending the stairs carrying Steenkamp.

This week, the court too has seen an emotional Pistorius, as he covered his ears during the first graphic description of Steenkamp's injuries given during witness testimony. Court sketch artist Jaco van Vuuren, who has trained on the same track as Pistorius for years, handed him a plastic bag in the dock, saying he thought the Paralympian might vomit.

On the 12th anniversary of his mother's death Thursday, Pistorius prayed with his family during a brief adjournment. But this is a trial that will be decided on logic and sequence, as much as character.

As the first week of the trial wraps up, both the defense and prosecution teams are beginning to map out more of their cases, which hinge on a coherent narrative to be constructed around a complex timeline of events.

Both sides will have to answer three crucial questions in the coming days:

Question 1: Which set of "bangs" killed Reeva Steenkamp?

Neighbor Johan Stipp says he heard two sets of loud "bangs," with a female screaming in between. He says both sets of noises sounded the same and were both in rapid succession. Other neighbors only heard one set of "shots," which took place at around the same time as the second set that Stipp heard.

The defense says the first set of "bangs" were the shots that killed Steenkamp, and the second set was the sound of Pistorius breaking the toilet door with a cricket bat to come to her aid.

The prosecution says the second set of "bangs" killed Steenkamp, which suggests that the first set of noises must either have been other shots, or Pistorius hitting the toilet door with a cricket bat, knowing that his girlfriend was inside.

The defense says ballistics will prove that the door must have been intact when the athlete opened fire, and that wood splinters in Steenkamp's wounds will demonstrate this. Could Pistorius have partially broken the door and then fired bullets through what remained?

Prosecutor Nel says all will be revealed as the team continues to lay out its case.

Question 2: Does Pistorius sound like a woman when he screams?

His ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor gave a definitive "no" on the stand, explaining that she has heard him scream many times, including when he was very anxious, and that he always sounded "like a man." However, she admits that she has not heard him scream in a situation where he feared for his life.

Much of the defense's case rests on the suggestion that neighbors who claim they heard a woman's screams were mistaken, and that the shouts came from Pistorius himself. His account of the incident revolves around Steenkamp's lack of sound or response, so, he says, he could not have known where she was.

All of Pistorius' neighbors who have taken the stand have clearly stated they heard two voices: a male and female. Michelle Burger, who lives in the neighboring estate, spoke of intensifying "bloodcurdling screams," which sounded like a terrified woman.

But, even if the prosecution concedes that the screaming may have come from Pistorius, and that the first set of "bangs" were the shots that killed Steenkamp, it does not fully match the Paralympian's account of events.

Pistorius says after he fired his gun, he "rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help." But, as prosecutor Nel points out, he does not describe the ongoing anguished screaming that witnesses heard. It would mean that Pistorius' agonized shouting began before he even discovered Steenkamp's injuries.

Roux continues to argue that having conducted sound tests from Pistorius' home, there is no way Steenkamp's screams – had she screamed – would have carried from the locked toilet cubicle with its closed window to the neighbors' homes.

Question 3: When were the bathroom lights switched on, and just how bright was it?

In his bail affidavit, Pistorius gives a detailed account of the sequence of events after he fired the gunshots through the door.

He says – while without his prostheses – he backed out of the bathroom, too scared to turn a light on, searched for Reeva in the dark, then returned to the bathroom calling her name. When he realized the toilet door was locked, he rushed to the balcony on the other side of the bedroom to scream for help, then put his prostheses on and ran to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door down. Only then did he turn on the lights.

Johan Stipp, the radiologist whose balcony has a view of Pistorius' bathroom windows, says he was awakened by "three loud bangs." He testified that he spoke to his wife and went outside onto the balcony to investigate, when he noticed that Pistorius' bathroom light was on, and heard screaming.

If Pistorius' account is to be believed, he would have had to do all of the above in the time Stipp took to get out of bed and walk to the balcony.

If the lights were on earlier than he claims – or even before he shot through the toilet door, as the state claims – then he would have known Steenkamp was not in bed, and the suggestion that the shooting was an accident is much less plausible.

Samantha Taylor says the athlete would regularly keep his bedroom curtains open, because he would train early in the morning, which suggests that the room may not always be as pitch black as the defense claims.

Guard Pieter Baba will take the stand again on Monday, when Roux is expected to present phone records for the calls made on Valentine's Day 2013, in an effort to nail down the sequence of events.

Asked how it was going after the first week of testimony, prosecution advocate Andrea Johnson smiled. "Can't complain," she told Yahoo Sports.


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