Pistorius and Steenkamp were 'loving couple', says lawyer

Mr Pistorius' defence team played CCTV of Mr Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp kissing in a shop on 4 February 2013

The lawyer of Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete accused of murdering his girlfriend, has denied claims the couple were unhappy.

Barry Roux emphasised that among hundreds of "loving" text messages, only four showed signs of arguments.

He made his case while cross-examining a police captain who had given evidence about the couple's mobile phones.

Mr Pistorius denies deliberately shooting Reeva Steenkamp last February, saying he thought she was an intruder.

The prosecution has now ended its case and the trial has been adjourned until Friday.

Analysis

The state has wrapped up its case, but not before a bit of damage control by the defence. Barry Roux read messages exchanged between Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius which he says show the couple were in a "loving relationship". The texts included nicknames like "boo, my angel, baba".

But prosecutor Gerrie Nel, whose case is that Mr Pistorius murdered the model in cold blood, pointed out that their messages were mostly one liners - there was "nothing discussing the relationship". He said the only messages where Ms Steenkamp shared her feelings were those showing they were fighting. One read: "I am scared of you sometimes."

The defence has a lot of work ahead. They need to somehow disprove the witnesses who heard a screaming woman, and to salvage their client's image - now also tainted by reports of a temper and reckless use of a firearm.

Defence lawyers say Mr Pistorius will take the stand, but it is not clear when that will be.

The defence is particularly focusing on text messages and calls extracted from the couple's mobile phones by police Capt Francois Moller.

Mr Pistorius previously said he had forgotten the password to his iPhone and investigators went to the US shortly before the trial began to meet Apple officials to try and gain access to it.

'Jealous and possessive'

Mr Roux tried to demonstrate that Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp had arguments but these were soon resolved, the BBC's Pumza Fihlani reports from court in Pretoria.

Many of the text messages exchanged between the couple were affectionate in tone and showed they were in love, the defence argued on Tuesday.

The defence also played CCTV footage, earlier broadcast by Sky News, showing Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp kissing in a shop.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel later questioned the relevance of the video.

On Monday Capt Moller revealed he had been able to extract some 35,000 pages' worth of messages from Ms Steenkamp's phone.

He said that 90% of the messages between the couple were loving, but he had picked out exceptions.

In one message sent on 27 January 2013, Ms Steenkamp wrote: "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you react to me."

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock during his trial in Pretoria on 25 March Mr Pistorius' defence team tried to counter prosecution attempts to paint him as a jealous boyfriend
June Steenkamp, right, mother of the late Reeva Steenkamp, and family friend, Jenny Strydom, left, crying as the court hears evidence on mobile phone text messages between Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp It was another difficult day for relatives and friends of Reeva Steenkamp, including her mother June (right)
Oscar Pistorius outside the court, surrounded by broadcast media crews There is intense media interest in the case, both within South Africa and internationally

The message was sent after the couple had a row when he accused her of flirting with another man at a friend's engagement dinner - weeks before he shot her dead.

In another message written a week before her death, she said: "I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you - the one person I deserve protection from."

Correspondents say some of these messages could prove extremely damaging for Mr Pistorius.

Ms Steenkamp's messages paint a picture of the athlete as a jealous and possessive boyfriend prone to anger.

The texts between the couple also suggest Mr Pistorius asked Ms Steenkamp to keep quiet over an incident in January 2013 where he allegedly fired a gun at a restaurant - another charge he denies.

"Angel please don't say a thing to anyone... I can't afford for that to come out," he wrote.

line break
Oscar Pistorius murder trial mobile phone messages
Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius
  • "I was not flirting with anyone today I feel sick that you suggested that" (Reeva Steenkamp, 27 January 2013)
  • "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me" (Reeva Steenkamp, 27 January)
  • "I do everything to make you happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with you" (Reeva Steenkamp, 27 January)
  • "I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you - the one person I deserve protection from" (Reeva Steenkamp, 8 February)
  • The court heard the couple called each other "Angel" and "Baba"
  • "Angel please don't say a thing to anyone…Darren told everyone it was his fault. I can't afford for that to come out" (Oscar Pistorius, 11 January 2013 following alleged shooting incident)
line break
Trial extended

The trial was due to end this week but has been extended and will now run until the middle of May.

The prosecution says it will call upon four more witnesses before closing its case.

The defence team will then call upon its own witnesses, including Mr Pistorius himself.

Oscar Pistorius trial day 14: Key moments

Last week the trial heard evidence from ballistics experts and computer forensic teams who described the sequence and timing of the shots that killed Ms Steenkamp.

Mr Pistorius is a double amputee who holds six Paralympic medals and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

The prosecution accuses him of intentionally shooting Ms Steenkamp - a model, reality TV celebrity and law graduate - after an argument.

But the athlete maintains he believed his girlfriend was in bed and that an intruder had entered the bathroom when he shot at the toilet door in the early hours of 14 February 2013.

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

If found guilty, the 27 year old - dubbed the "blade runner" because of the prosthetic limbs he wore to race - could face life imprisonment.

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