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  • 7 April 2014, 9:37

Pistorius Leaves Court 'Heaving and Retching'

The defence case in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has started in South Africa - as the athlete prepares to take the stand himself.

Pistorius wept in court before his defence team opened their case with the first witness, pathologist Professor Jan Botha.

Professor Botha was allowed to testify first, and ahead of Pistorius, in an agreement with prosecutors because of a family illness.

Pistorius is expected to testify after Professor Botha and explain his version of events.

The paralympian bent down in the dock, plugging his ears with his fingers, as Professor Botha gave testimony about Ms Steenkamp's cause of death. 

Sky's Alex Crawford, reporting from the court, said that Pistorius was "literally heaving, retching" before the mid-morning break.

He was escorted out of the court amid "audible sobs", by his psychologist and family members.  

Crawford said that Pistorius might take the stand even before lunch time. 

Contradicting the state's account, Professor Botha said Ms Steenkamp was first shot in the hip, then in the arm.

The third bullet hit her hand and the fourth hit her head, he said.

The state said Ms Steenkamp was first shot in the hip, that the second bullet missed, the third bullet hit her arm, and the fourth went through her hand and head.

Later, Pistorius is expected to tell the court he shot and killed his girlfriend by mistake on Valentine's Day last year, thinking she was an intruder in his home. 

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.

Crawford said that Mr Nel was already living up to his reputation as a "rottweiler".

"Up until now, he had been quite gentle," Crawford said. "But that has changed - no more Mr Nice Guy."

The prosecution has wrapped up its case and both sides have agreed to an extension of the trial until mid-May.

Just 18 of 107 possible witnesses were heard during the first three weeks of the trial, which is being held in Pretoria.

During the prosecution's case, the court heard about text messages Ms Steenkamp sent to Pistorius, in which she wrote: "I am sometimes scared of you."

An emotional message from Ms Steenkamp sent on January 27 last year accused Pistorius of picking on her "incessantly".

The Paralympian is accused of the premeditated murder of Ms Steenkamp, but says he mistook her for an intruder and shot her by mistake.

He is also accused of illegally possessing ammunition and two further counts related to shooting a gun in public in separate incidents prior to the killing.

The 27-year-old denies all the charges against him.