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Oscar Pistorius Pathologist Says Reeva Steenkamp Ate Hours Before Death

11/03/2014 09:43 GMT | Updated 11/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend killed by Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, ate only a couple of hours before her death, contradicting the athlete's claims the couple went to bed by 10pm, a pathologist has told the court.

Steenkamp was shot after 3 am, according to a distress call made by Pistorius and shots heard by neighbours.

But Pistorius' barrister Barry Roux told the murder trial in Pretoria on Tuesday that there was "great variation" in conventional wisdom on digestion of food, and it was possible that she had eaten a big meal early in the day.

Pathologist Gert Saayman told the court that it would a "scientific outlier" if the food had been eaten any earlier than 1am, two hours before Steenkamp was shot by Pistorius in the en-suite bathroom, but accepted it was possible.

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Oscar Pistorius, the paralympian accused of murder, arrives at the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday

"After four to six hours, for practical purposes, the stomach is empty," he said, adding that he based his judgment on years of experience.

He identified the gastric content as "vegetables" but said he was unable to be more exact, having examined Steenkamp's body a day later.

"I cannot tell this court that this was spinach or beans or anything of this nature. I can just say it was vegetable material," he said.

On another point of contention, which is whether neighbours who heard screams from the house had heard Steenkamp or Pistorius, Saayman said it was possible the screams could have come from the dying woman.

After sustaining such a severe injury, as Steenkamp did when she was shot in the hip, Saayman said a complex neurological fight or flight process would have kicked in.

Screaming would have been possible as the reaction is not cognitive, Saayman continued, possible even after Steenkamp was shot in the head, and would be "abnormal if someone does not scream when sustaining wounds of this nature."

Previous witnesses have described hearing screaming after the shots were fired, explained by Pistorius' defence as being from the double-amputee himself, whose scream was high-pitched and woman-like.

On Monday, hearing graphic testimony from Saayman on wounds sustained by his girlfriend, Pistorius retched throughout the hearing, being sick into a bucket and crying.

On Tuesday, the athlete looked more composed, but spent much of the testimony sat with his head between his hands.

Steenkamp, who was in the bathroom when she was shot, must have voided her bladder either immediately before or up to an hour previously, Saayman added.

Pistorius is accused of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp, who he alleges he mistook for an intruder.