Pistorius Trial Hears About Reeva’s Last Meal
On the 28th day of the trial, an anaesthetist gives evidence on when Reeva Steenkamp may have eaten before her death. An anaesthetist has cast doubt on prosecution claims that Oscar Pistorius had a late-night argument with Reeva Steenkamp before he shot her.
Professor Christina Lundgren – who has a PhD in deaths due to anaesthesia – explained why she was qualified to give expert evidence on gastric emptying and its use to determine the time of death.
State Pathologist Gert Saayman has previously testified that food found in Ms Steenkamp’s stomach had been eaten no more than two hours before she was shot dead at 3am on February 14, 2013.
His evidence challenged Pistorius’ claim that she ate early the previous evening and suggested she was awake when a neighbour said she heard what sounded like a woman arguing in the house where Pistorius shot her.
But Prof Lundgren said the prosecution case that Ms Steenkamp’s stomach should have been empty if Pistorius was telling the truth was “purely speculative”.
She explained that before surgery patients are typically told not to eat for six hours to ensure their stomachs are empty.
But she said that some ingredients in a chicken stir-fry Ms Steenkamp ate, such as vegetables and fatty foods, could take longer to digest.
Gastric emptying could also be delayed in pre-menopausal women and by sleep, eating disorders or some medications such as anti-depressants and slimming drugs, Prof Lundgren told the court.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel worked to eliminate the factors that could have delayed the digestion process in Ms Steenkamp’s case, saying that she had not drunk alcohol, smoked or taken medication and did not have an eating disorder.
He said that made Professor Saayman’s evidence more probable.
The witness acknowledged to Mr Nel that if Ms Steenkamp had been involved in a long argument that caused her anxiety before her death, the gastric emptying process could have been delayed.
Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but he claims he shot her by accident.