Reeva’s head wound fatal: pathologist

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oscar crying march 10 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Oscar Pistorius in the High Court in Pretoria on Monday. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Pretoria - Professor Gert Saayman, the forensic pathologist who was responsible for the post-mortem of Reeva Steenkamp, testified in graphic detail about the injuries the model sustained.

Steenkamp was killed when she was shot by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius last year at his Pretoria East home.

Saayman said the deceased had died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

Saayman said the night of the shooting she was wearing a pair of gray Nike shorts, covered in blood.

One bullet hole was noted in the material on the thigh, indicating the first of Steenkamp's wounds revealed to the court. Saayman also examined a sleeveless black vest, torn in some areas and scattered with blood and tissue fragments, including bone.

Upon initial inspection, Saayman found a piece of a bullet tangled in the clothing, which was given to investigators.

As these details were read to the court, Pistorius began shaking in the dock, covering his head.

When an adjournment was taken, Pistorius' family approached him in the dock, his siblings Aimee and Carl held him. Carl also looked red faced as his brother continued to cower in the dock, a handkerchief in hand.

When court continued, defence advocate Barry Roux told the court his client was not fine, but that his mood was unlikely to change. Roux then approached Pistorius, and after a quick consultation said Pistorius wanted the testimony to continue.

Saayman then described Steenkamp's other external injuries, including two wounds on her skull and scalp. As these wounds were being described, Pistorius could be heard loudly wretching in the dock.

Another wound was found on Steenkamp's fractured upper arm, which showed the bullet had passed through it entirely.

When Pistorius wretched again, Judge Masipa asked if their was anything Roux could do to help his client. But Roux said that nothing would change and to continue, while a court official lifted the microphone facing Pistorius away from the athlete, who had apparently vomited.

Some of the wounds showed that the bullets were atypically shaped when Steenkamp was hit, most likely from hitting the bathroom door first.

Saayman confirmed that it was likely that one of the bullets had passed through Steenkamp's arm and into her head.

Saayman added there were also small, superficial injuries caused by splinters.

Abrasions on her body suggested damage from a blunt object, or projectiles that lost the force to penetrate the skin.

Saayman then went on to describe Steenkamp's internal injuries, starting with her skull and how the bullet had entered it, creating multiple fractures.

He said the kind of ammunition used was previously referred to as “black talon” ammunition, and these bullets were taken off the market and later re-branded as “ranger” ammunition.

Saayman said this ammunition was an expanding bullet, designed to open up, mushroom upon striking human tissue. The kinetic energy is maintained, meaning it causes major tissue damage.

Saayman then said the bullets were also designed to split up into jagged pieces to do maximum damage.

Nel asked about the minimal damage to Steenkamp's stomach if it could be determined when she had last eaten before her death. Saayman said he could not tell exactly when, but could estimate she had eaten about 2 hours prior to her death.

Nel then asked if Steenkamp would have been able to use her right arm after the injury, but Saayman said this would have been very unlikely.

He also said the wound to the head was incapacitating and instantly fatal.

Saayman said, however, that the seriousness of the wounds to the hip and right arm could have also led to her death.

Her survival after sustaining the two non-head wounds would only be about a fifty percent chance, according to Saayman.

All of these would have been immediately incapacitating wounds, but it would have some time for Steenkamp to die. The model would have probably breathed just a few times before her death.

The court then adjourned, and the trial continues on Tuesday morning.

The Star

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