By Alex Crawford


South African paralympian Oscar Pistorius is expected to take the witness stand later this week – in connection with the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

It is understood he will not be the first witness for the defence. Instead, pathologist Theo Botha will be first up – due to undisclosed “personal reasons”.

When Pistorius takes the stand, it will be the first time he speaks publicly about what happened that night.

His testimony may take several days and he can expect a gruelling cross-examination from state prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

The athlete insists he shot his girlfriend by accident after mistaking her for an intruder. It is a defence which is not without precedent in South Africa.

Former South African Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot and killed his 19-year-old daughter Marle.

He was never prosecuted after a court ruled he had “suffered enough” from what Visagie said was a terrible accident.

And although it happened about 10 years ago, the Pistorius case has brought back lots of traumatic memories for the Visagie family.

The walls of the Visagie house are full of pictures of their teenage daughter.

Marle had got up early to drive to her boyfriend but after a violent burglary nearby just a week earlier, her parents panicked.

Visagie was woken by his wife Freda who heard a noise and assumed people were trying to steal their car.

“I ran to the window and the shot went off, just one shot, a shot in a million and penetrated through the heart of the car’s body into her neck and she actually instantly died,” he said.

Freda, who was sitting next to him as we spoke, sobbed as she told Sky News: “I realised I’m not cross with myself. I’m cross with her (Marle) because she never told me she was going to go.”

Visagie’s voice broke as he described the support he had had from his wife and son Gary.

“Gary was only 16 or 17 at the time and he was the first person with me at the car and he said: ‘Pa, it was only an accident.’

“Now coming from a person … um … especially from him, was great.”

The couple are deeply religious and say their faith is what helped them get through it.

Their tragedy is strikingly similar to the version that Pistorius has given to police over the death of his girlfriend.

The paralympian says he shot his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine Day after mistaking HER for an intruder.

The prosecution, however, believes otherwise. They say the athlete deliberately targeted the model after a jealous row. He is being tried for premeditated murder.

Visagie’s experience has meant he, perhaps unsurprising, has some sympathy for the athlete’s version of events.

“The first thing I thought was that it was an accident,” he told us. “It happened. This is the circumstances (in South Africa), that’s what happens …”

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