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De Klerk said the bullets were rare in South Africa and designed to cause “excessive wounds.”

The detailed evidence regarding the injuries is important because, for one, Pistorius has claimed that Steenkamp was slumped over but alive when he eventually reached her after shooting her in error thinking she was a dangerous intruder.

That appears unlikely given Saayman’s testimony, but the pathologist did note that sometimes it takes a little time for a person’s heart to stop after a devastating head injury.

But his testimony also could harm the prosecution’s claims that Steenkamp screamed during the shooting, unless prosecutors can show that the head shot was the last one to hit her.

Saayman also said that judging by the food contents in her stomach, Steenkamp probably last ate no more than two hours before her death. Steenkamp was shot after 3 a.m., meaning she must have eaten after 1 a.m. That hinted at another possible wrinkle in Pistorius‘ account because he claims the couple was in the bedroom by 10 p.m.

Pistorius‘ defense team has indicated it will submit its own autopsy report to support his claim that the killing was a tragic accident.

If convicted on the murder charge, Pistorius, 27, could be sent to prison for at least 25 years before the chance of parole, the minimum time someone must serve if given a life sentence in South Africa. The judge will ultimately deliver the verdict and decide on any sentence. South Africa has no trial by jury.


Gerald Imray is on Twitter at