Pistorius trial discusses Steenkamp last meal

South African Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock during his murder trial in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, 8 May 2014

Mr Pistorius denies intentionally killing Ms Steenkamp

The 28th day of Oscar Pistorius’s trial is hearing evidence on when Reeva Steenkamp may have eaten her last meal.

Witness Christina Lundgren, an anaesthetist, described when a stomach is likely to be emptied after eating.

She said the prosecution’s argument that Ms Steenkamp’s stomach would have been empty if she ate when Mr Pistorius said she did was “pure speculation”.

Mr Pistorius denies intentionally killing Ms Steenkamp on 14 February last year.

The South African Paralympic sprinter says he accidentally shot her through a toilet door in a state of panic, mistaking her for an intruder.

‘Gastric emptying’

Mr Pistorius had said the couple had dinner at about 1900 the evening Ms Steenkamp was killed. He said the couple went to sleep between 2100 and 2200.

The prosecution has argued that this cannot be true as Ms Steenkamp had food in her stomach at the time of her death.

This indicates that Ms Steenkamp ate later than Mr Pistorius said, and that this meant the couple could have been awake, and arguing, before the shooting, the prosecution says.

Ms Steenkamp was shot in the early hours of 14 February.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg - 14 February 2013
The couple had been dating for just a few months when she was shot dead in 2013
June Steenkamp (right), the mother of Reeva Steenkamp, looks on during the murder trial of South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius at the high court in Pretoria, 8 May 2014
Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp (right), was present at the trial on Thursday

Speaking on Thursday, Prof Lundgren, who was shown copies of the post mortem report, said there were many factors that could have delayed gastric emptying in Ms Steenkamp’s stomach, including sleep, exercise, medication, and her age.

“In an ideal world, after six hours of fasting after [the] meal her stomach should probably have been empty. But there are so many unknowns about possible factors that might have delayed gastric emptying,” she said.

“One cannot state it as being fact” that Ms Steenkamp’s stomach would have been empty six hours after eating, Prof Lundgren said. “I would say it is purely speculative.”

‘Normal circumstances’

In his cross-examination, prosecutor Gerrie Nel indicated that Prof Lungdren’s list of factors that could delay gastric emptying may not apply to Ms Steenkamp.

He added that in normal circumstances one would expect the stomach to be empty eight hours after eating food.

If found guilty, Mr Pistorius – a national sporting hero and double amputee dubbed the “blade runner” because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race – could face life imprisonment.

If he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

He also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

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