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‘Without warning Oscar shot through sunroof’

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EPA

Oscar Pistorius is pictured in the dock on Tuesday during his ongoing murder trial. Picture: Kim Ludbrook

* This story has been updated.

Pretoria - The eleventh State witness to take the stand at Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial was his friend Darren Fresco.

Fresco was present at two separate incidents where Pistorius's handling of firearms has been called into question by the State.

In September 2012, Pistorius was travelling in a vehicle with Fresco and Pistorius's then-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, when the athlete fired a gun out of the sunroof.

According to Taylor's earlier testimony, both men were angry after being pulled over by police for speeding, and joked about shooting a traffic light. It was after these jokes were made that Pistorius allegedly fired the gun.

Fresco was also present at the Melrose Arch restaurant, Tasha's, in January 2013 where he allegedly handed Pistorius a loaded gun that accidentally went off.

Fresco said that he and Pistorius met on a breakfast run seven years ago, where car and motorcycle enthusiasts take drives on Sunday mornings.

He confirmed to the court that he had met Taylor through Pistorius.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began his examination by asking about the sunroof incident.

Fresco, Taylor and Pistorius were all in Fresco's car, and after passing a toll plaza were pulled over by metro police for speeding< Frecso said.

The officers asked for his licence, and because it was taking some time, Pistorius got out of the vehicle to ask what was taking so long.

Another metro police officer went over to where Pistorius had been sitting and picked up the gun he had left on the seat.

Pistorius and the officer had a “verbal altercation” about the officer having handled the weapon. “You can't just touch another man's gun,” Pistorius had said.

The officer had apparently “cleared” the weapon, causing a bullet to fall into the vehicle.

Pistorius then began arguing with the officer about his fingerprints being on his gun.

When the officer responded by referring to the athlete as Mr Pretorius, he corrected the officer: “if you could read, you would see it's Mr Pistorius.”

Fresco had managed to find the loose bullet in the car and gave it back to Pistorius, who he thought had placed it back in the magazine.

More metro officers arrived on the scene saying they had been chasing the car since the toll point.

The officers then issued a speeding fine, and allowed the group to leave.

Fresco said Pistorius was furioius about the incident.

“Without prior warning, he shot out the sunroof,” said Fresco. The shocked man had moved over the right hand side of the vehicle as the gun had gone off next to his left ear.

“Apologies for the language, my lady, but I asked if he was 'f***ing' mad,” Fresco told the court.

Pistorius allegedly just laughed about what had happened.

Fresco said after that, they had just carried on driving.

The group had then gone to a friend for Pistorius to sign for - according to Fresco - either a gunlicence or an actual gun, and subsequently went for dinner in Sandton.

Fresco was able to point out to police where on the R25 and M78 (Laurie Road) the sunroof shooting had happened.

Fresco then was questioned on the incident at Melrose Arch.

He said that a training partner had arrived in the country that day, and they wanted to take him out for drinks.

At the restaurant, Pistorius had allegedly asked Fresco to pass his 40 calibre Glock 27.

Fresco told the court he didn't know why Pistorius had asked, but assumed he was competent enough to handle it.

“We had been to the shooting range before and I knew he had a huge love for weapons,” said Fresco. He passed the gun diagonally under the table.

When he leaned forward to pass the gun, he said to Pistorius “There is one up”, meaning the gun was loaded.

Pistorius then took the weapon under the table, but couldn't see what was happening under the table.

Fresco believed - from Pistorius's shoulder movements - that he was trying to take the bullet out of the chamber.

Fresco said that on that weapon, there is no safety clip because there's no hammer. A hairline trigger has to be compressed and then pulled through for the weapon to fire. But a shot did go off, and no one at the table immediately knew where the bullet had gone. The silence was broken by Fresco telling everyone to pretend like nothing had happened.

Pistorius passed the gun back, begging Fresco to take the blame for the shot because there was too much media hype around him.

“With pleasure,” he allegedly told Pistorius.

Fresco told management his gun had gone off unintentionally after falling out of his shorts, and repeatedly apologised.

Shrapnel from the bullet or the tile of the floor had nicked their friend, professional boxer Kevin Lerena's foot under the table.

The group paid their bill and left, never discussing the incident again.

Defence advocate Barry Roux began his cross-examination by saying that Fresco appeared to have been helped by an attorney to construct his police statement on the incidents.

Fresco said this was the case, because he wanted legal advice to ensure he wouldn't get himself “in trouble”, even though he was not responsible for either incident.

He said he knew this affidavit was to be used in the case against Pistorius.

Roux argued it would have been easy to put this statement across to avoid getting in trouble after taking the blame for the accidental shooting at the Tasha's restaurant. Fresco denied this.

Roux then said that in Fresco's first statement, he neglected to tell police how Pistorius had asked him to take the blame.

But Fresco said he had simply forgotten to add this to his statement.

Fresco had also said that the female manager of the restaurant had come to the table before her husband. But Roux challenged Fresco's memory of events based on the couple's earlier testimony that it was the other way around.

Roux also noted that the fact that Fresco had made up a lie about his gun falling from his pants was absent from his statement as well.

Fresco told the court he was unable to explain why.

When Lerena was on the stand last week, he told the court that the restaurant was quite loud, and the defence suggested that Pistorius may not have heard Fresco's warning that the gun was loaded.

Roux asked Fresco if someone had told him about this defence, because Fresco had brought up - without prompting - how close he and Pistorius's heads were when he was handing over the gun.

Roux then moved onto the other incident where Pistorius fired his gun out of Fresco's sunroof.

Fresco said the group was pulled over twice that day.

Roux told the court that one of the fines had been paid off by another friend of Pistorius, Justin Divaris.

Roux also revealed that Fresco may have been driving at 260km/h.

Roux asked about the two fines, and said that one of the fines concerned the car's licence plate and the other was for speeding.

Fresco said they were stopped shortly after leaving the event at the Vaal River, while some time later they were pulled over for speeding.

Roux asked what Fresco had done with the speeding ticket.

Fresco said he had given it to the car dealership, even though the ticket was in Fresco's name.

Roux said Pistorius had told him that Fresco had crumpled up the paper and threw it in the car's footwell.

Fresco admitted this, but said that he had later handed over both tickets to the dealership.

Roux then asked about whether Fresco had joked with Pistorius about shooting a traffic light, as the court was told by Pistorius's ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, but Fresco said he could not remember this.

Fresco said Pistorius firing the gun out of his sunroof was "out of the blue".

Roux read out Taylor's testimony, but Fresco said he was satisfied with his version and that Taylor had not been telling the truth.

The defence began questioning Fresco about the friend of Pistorius they had visited after the shooting incident, and the documents the athlete had signed.

But Fresco was not forthcoming with details, as he said he did not remember much of this part of the evening.

He also could not remember where the trio had gone after their dinner.

Roux queried why there was a hole in Fresco's memory after he was able to remember great detail prior to the group leaving the restaurant.

The court then adjourned for lunch.

shain.germaner@inl.co.za

The Star

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