Prosecutor Says Pistorius Lying in ‘Improbable’ Murder DefenseChris Spillane and Paul Burkhardt
The prosecution in Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial said he was lying and adapting his version of events on the morning he shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to line up with the evidence.
“Your version is so improbable that nobody would ever think it is reasonably possible,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said during cross examination of the runner today in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. “You are trying Mr. Pistorius, it’s not working.”
The double-amputee athlete has pleaded not guilty to murdering Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, testifying 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 at 3:17 a.m. after she ran from a bedroom during an argument to hide in the toilet in his Pretoria home.
“The deceased ran screaming from there, that’s why they we heard screams,” Nel said, citing earlier testimony from neighbors.
Pistorius, 27, testified for a fourth day and 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. He says police officers tampered with the scene and moved items around his bedroom.
“Your version is a lie,” Nel said, because it meant police investigators would have had to take a duvet off the bed, move a fan that was plugged in and open curtains to make it possible. “Is this one big conspiracy? Why would the police do all this to you?”
Nel also accused Pistorius of refusing to take responsibility for his actions and of publicly humiliating Steenkamp.
The Paralympic gold medalist said a friend and a former girlfriend both fabricated a story that he had shot a gun through a car sunroof. He denied that he had pulled the trigger of a firearm he was holding and that went off in a Johannesburg restaurant.
Nel called that the “miraculous discharge of a gun.”
Judge Thokozile Masipa reprimanded Nel and people in the public gallery for laughing after Pistorius said he couldn’t remember who told him that Darren Fresco and Samantha Taylor, who testified last month that Pistorius fired his gun through a sunroof, had been in contact with each other.
Nel challenged Pistorius about arguments he had with Steenkamp in the weeks before he shot her and pushed him to apologize for his girlfriend’s death. In his apology at the start of his testimony four days ago he didn’t say he was sorry for the killing, Nel said. Reeva’s mother said the apology left her “unmoved,” the London-based Daily Mirror reported, citing June Steenkamp in an interview.
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.
“End of January, beginning of February, that’s where there were arguments and those arguments are all about you,” Nel said. “It’s all about Mr. Pistorius, that’s what your relationship was about.”
Masipa will give a final judgment in the case because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. She could consider a lesser charge of culpable homicide if she rules there was no 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.”
Steenkamp was hit in the arm, hip and head and died in Pistorius’s home following the shooting.
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 trial, which is being broadcast live on radio and TV, started on March 3. Only audio broadcast of Pistorius’s testimony is allowed.
Steenkamp was standing when the first hollow-point bullet broke her hip bone, then she fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, police ballistics expert Chris Mangena said in testimony on March 19. She was struck by two more bullets after a pause, he said.
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.