PRETORIA (Reuters) – “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame for him accidentally discharging a pistol under the table of a posh Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013, a month before he killed his girlfriend, his murder trial heard on Wednesday.
Testifying for the prosecution against the South African Olympic and Paralympic track star, professional boxer Kevin Lerena described how he, Pistorius and two others had been having dinner at Tashas restaurant when the gun went off.
Lerena said one of the group, Darren Fresco, passed his pistol under the table to Pistorius, telling him there was “one up” – an indication that a round was loaded in the chamber.
“A shot went off. Then there was just complete silence,” Lerena said. “I looked down at the floor and exactly where I looked down, where my foot was, there was a hole in the floor.”
“I had a little graze on my toe, but I wasn’t hurt,” Lerena added.
Pistorius immediately apologized to his fellow diners and checked they had not been hurt, but then turned to Fresco and asked him to take responsibility, Lerena said, testifying on the third day of Pistorius’ murder trial in Pretoria.
“‘Please take the blame for me – there’s too much media hype around me’,” Lerena quoted Pistorius as saying. “When the restaurant owners came up, Darren took the blame.”
Lerena, who goes by the ring name of “KO Kid”, was giving evidence in relation to a lesser charge brought against Pistorius of discharging a weapon in a public place.
The main charge is that he murdered his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day 2013 by shooting her through a locked toilet door. Pistorius has pleaded not guilty, saying it was a tragic error and he mistook her for an intruder.
The prosecution has sought to portray the 27-year-old running star, who had his disabled lower legs amputated as a baby and uses carbon fiber prosthetic “blades” to run, as a gun-obsessed hot-head.
Pistorius has also pleaded not guilty to the Tashas gun offence charge, and to a similar charge of putting a bullet through the sun roof of a former girlfriend’s car in a separate incident.
(Reporting by Lynette Ndabambi and Ed Cropley; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)