Pistorius ‘tried to pass blame for gun blunder’

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Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame after a pistol was accidentally fired in a Johannesburg restaurant, weeks before the double-amputee runner fatally shot his girlfriend, a witness has told Pistorius’s murder trial.

The evidence by boxer Kevin Lerena relates to firearms charges against Pistorius, and raises questions about the character of a man who insists he accidentally shot dead Reeva Steenkamp in his home in the early hours of February 14 last year.

Prosecutors allege he intentionally shoot Ms Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend.

Mr Lerena said the restaurant shooting happened when he and Pistorius and two other friends were in a restaurant in the swank Melrose Arch area of Johannesburg in January 2013.

One friend, Darren Fresco, passed his gun to Pistorius under the table and told him that there was a bullet in the chamber, Mr Lerena said. Then a shot went off, puncturing the floor near where Mr Lerena’s foot had been.

“There was just complete silence,” said Mr Lerena, who described being in shock and bleeding from a grazed toe. Then, he said, Pistorius apologised, saying: “Are you OK? Is everybody OK?”

Before the restaurant management approached the table, Mr Lerena said, Pistorius asked Mr Fresco to say he was responsible for the gunshot. “Just say it was you. I don’t want any tension around me,” Mr Lerena remembered Pistorius saying. “There’s too much media hype around me.”

Mr Lerena said they paid the bill and left the restaurant, and he never spoke about the incident. Two days after Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp, he said, he woke up to find more than 100 missed calls on his telephone as world media tried to contact him to ask about the restaurant shooting.

Earlier in the day, chief defence lawyer Barry Roux sought to undermine the prosecution testimony of a couple who say they heard a woman’s screams and gunfire the night that Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp.

Telephone records will show the banging sounds the neighbours heard were not gunshots but a distressed Pistorius breaking down the toilet door with a cricket bat after realising he had shot Ms Steenkamp when she was in the toilet, thinking it was an intruder, he asserted.

The trial continues.