South African prosecutor Gerrie Nel told Paralympian Oscar Pistorius that he was talking to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door moments before he opened fire and killed her.
Nel told the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, today it was impossible to believe Pistorius’s version that he was yelling to Steenkamp to call the police and she uttered no response while in a nearby toilet cubicle, standing facing the door.
“She is three meters away from you in the toilet and she never uttered a word. It’s not possible. She would be scared,” Nel said. “She was standing there talking to you when you shot her.”
Pistorius, 27, rejected Nel’s statement and said Steenkamp remained silent. “But why would she shout out?” he asked the prosecutor.
“Because you are in the room, sir,” said Nel.
The double-amputee athlete has pleaded not guilty to murdering Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, testifying that he thought she was an intruder in his bathroom when he fired four shots through a locked cubicle door. The prosecution says he killed her in his Pretoria home after an argument.
The trial, which started on March 3 and is being broadcast live on radio and TV, was adjourned until April 14. Only audio broadcast of Pistorius’s testimony is allowed.
The Paralympic gold medalist spent a fifth day on the witness stand, and a fourth day in cross-examination. Judge Thokozile Masipa will give the final judgment in the case, which started on March 3, because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
Pressed by Nel about whether Steenkamp screamed after the first shot, Pistorius said, “At no point did Reeva shout out or scream. I just wish she would’ve have let me know she was there.”
In prior testimony Pistorius said he fired the four shots in rapid succession. Three of them hit her, one in the hip, the arm and the head.
Earlier Masipa instructed Nel to stop calling Pistorius a liar.
“Mind your language,” she said. “You don’t call the witness a liar, not while he is in the witness box.”
Nel said Pistorius committed mistakes during testimony, including a discrepancy from earlier statements on whether he turned off the alarm in his house after the shooting. Nel said that Pistorius is making up his answers to try ensure his version of events is plausible.
“I think you are trying to cover up for lies,” Nel said. “You are tailoring evidence. There is no other reason for this.”
Masipa stopped the questioning to ask if Pistorius was making mistakes because he’s tired.
“Yes, I am tired, but that’s not going to change anything,” Pistorius responded, adding he was well enough to continue.
Pistorius says police tampered with the scene and moved items around his bedroom, undermining his version about how he shifted around the bedroom before and after the shooting.
“Your version is so improbable that nobody would ever think it is reasonably possible,” Nel said during cross-examination yesterday. “Is this one big conspiracy? Why would the police do all this to you?”
The prosecution has sought to undermine defense lawyer Barry Roux’s portrayal of Pistorius as a religious man with a deep fear of crime who was in a loving relationship with Steenkamp. Nel asked why, if he had been a victim of crime, he had never reported the incidents to the police.
Yesterday, Pistorius repeated that he fired four hollow-point bullets at the cubicle door accidentally, while later saying he shot the pistol because he thought his life was in danger.
Masipa could consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide if she rules there wasn’t an intent to kill.
“I did not fire deliberately, I fired the gun out of fear that someone was coming out of the bathroom,” said Pistorius, who looked away from Nel during the cross-examination. “I heard a noise and I fired. It was an accident.”
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($96,000) bail since February last year.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc., Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley and Ossur hf, the Icelandic company that manufacturers the blades he uses.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.