Mike Hutchings/ReutersOscar Pistorius has been caught up in a war of words after a friend of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp claimed he whispered to her “how can you sleep at night?” during a break in his murder trial.
Kim Myers told police officers involved in the case the athlete made the “very sinister” comment out of the blue as she sat with her mother in the public gallery flanked by a large number of journalists.
The 27-year-old athlete flatly denied the claim, telling the Telegraph he had not spoken to Miss Myers or the rest of her family at all during the trial. His lawyer insisted her statement was “grossly untrue”.
But Miss Myers has said she is standing by her allegation. Her lawyer, Ian Levitt, said they have raised it with the National Prosecuting Authority and are considering making a formal complaint of intimidation to police.
Steenkamp referred to Kim, her sister Gina and their parents Desi and Cecil as her “Joburg family” and had lived with them at their home since September 2012, after leaving her own family home in Port Elizabeth. Both sisters and their mother have been in court almost throughout the case.
Mr Myers identified Steenkamp’s body and told the Telegraph last year he had warned the “very moody” athlete to “back off” after the model had complained to him she felt “caged in” by their relationship.
Pistorius is on trial at Pistorius High Court for the alleged premeditated murder of Miss Steenkamp. The prosecution say he shot at the model four times through a locked lavatory door at his Pretoria home after a row. He insists he did so thinking she was an intruder.
The alleged incident involving Miss Myers took place during a morning break in the trial proceedings.
Journalists sitting behind the Myers family say they saw Pistorius lean forwards towards Kim Myers as he left the dock.
She was seen to recoil and was approached by a police officer sitting with the prosecution team who asked what had been said. The officer then spoke to Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, and there was an exchange between lawyers for both sides.
Mr Levitt said his client had “no idea” what prompted the comment and had been left “shocked” by it.
“Kim Myers was approached by Oscar Pistorius in court today and, in a very sinister tone, was asked: ‘How can you sleep at night?’” Mr Levitt said.
“My client views this unwelcome approach as extremely disturbing. She wants to continue to be court in support of Reeva but it’s very upsetting.”
Desi Myers walked out of court with her daughter, telling journalist she was “furious”.
Asked by the Telegraph if he made the comment, Pistorius insisted he had not. “No, I haven’t spoken to them,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to them for a year and a half.
“I walk past them in corridors and hold doors open for them but they don’t look me in the eye.”
Challenged by another journalist who claimed to have witnessed the exchange, he shook his head and said: “I’ve heard that one.” He refused to respond to further questions.
Brian Webber, Mr Pistorius’s solicitor, initially said he would not “dignify” the claim with a response.
“It’s grossly untrue. He never said anything of the sort,” he said.
Mr Levitt said he was not surprised by Pistorius’ denial. “He’s denied a whole lot of things,” he said. “He’s in a big process of denial.
“Not only is Miss Myers standing by what he said but she finds it unfathomable that he denies it in front of a number of witnesses.”
Police were understood to be last night scanning video recordings of the trial proceedings in a bid to pinpoint the moment the alleged exchange might have taken place.
The Myers family were all named as witnesses on the state list but were not called to give evidence. They have hinted that little of what they told police has been mentioned in court, although it is understood that Pistorius and the defence team would have seen their statements.
Stephen Tuson, a legal expert at Wits University in Johannesburg, said that had Miss Myers been called as a state witness, Pistorius’ comments to her might have been “very serious indeed” and could have prompted the NPA to apply for his bail to be revoked.
“As she wasn’t called, that is academic but if proven this incident could demonstrate possible impropriety by the accused,” he said.
The case continues on Thursday.