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Court artist and Oscar were track pals

Pretoria - Once they used to share jokes on the track, but now Oscar Pistorius is in the dock and his friend, Jaco van Vuuren, is sketching the raw emotion evident at what has been dubbed the trial of the century.

Van Vuuren, one of the few sketch artists in the country and the only one attending the Pistorius murder trail, has a history with the Paralympian that dates back a few years.

Sketch artist Jaco van Vuuren is documenting the trial. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi. Credit: Independent Newspapers

Before the pony-tailed man with the dark beard found his prime spot in courts around Pretoria, he made his living from sport.

As an athletics coach at the LC de Villiers sports grounds in Pretoria, Van Vuuren often met Pistorius on the track and soon a friendship blossomed.

“The day he got sick in court and started vomiting was one of the most difficult days for me. I felt sick too – seeing him like that was not nice,” said Van Vuuren.

He produced his first sketch of Pistorius during the bail application in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in February last year, days after the athlete’s model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, died in a shooting at his home.

“When he saw me, he was very shocked and emotional. After that we spoke about it and he understood that I was not there to judge him, and nor am I now. I’m just capturing the moment. This time I warned him before the trial that I would be there and it was okay.”

The Pistorius family has commissioned two sketches from Van Vuuren, but the Paralympian has not. “He will look at some of my drawings, I know, but I don’t know if he will want any of them. These sketches serve as memorabilia for my clients. They carry with them a lot of emotion and sentimental value. I don’t know if he will want to be reminded of this.”

Van Vuuren’s pencil drawings show the Olympic gold medallist in the dock from different angles, as well as members of his family and the legal teams, the judge and her assessors, members of Steenkamp’s family, witnesses and journalists.

According to Van Vuuren, it would be a “sin” not to sketch the proceedings. He says no camera could capture what his drawings did.

“When one looks at a picture and a sketch of the same court at the same time, any person looks at the sketch longer.

“The sketch makes you feel that raw emotion because everything is drawn exactly as it was at that time and the emotion is in my drawings. The aim is to take the viewer into the courtroom through my sketches by keeping every detail as accurate as possible.”

Van Vuuren has been sketching courtroom scenes for three years and has attended a number of high-profile trials, including those of former national police chief Jackie Selebi, the “Modimolle monster”, members of the Boermag, and the men involved in the murder of Chanelle Henning.

He believes one of his best sketches will be on the day Judge Thokozile Masipa gives her verdict. “There is going to be a lot of emotion from him (Pistorius), the family and everyone else in court.”

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