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Pretoria - Stunned silence gripped courtroom GD on Wednesday as a close-up shot of Reeva Steenkamp’s bloodied head with brain tissue exposed was displayed in court on Wednesday.
June Steenkamp gasped and covered her face with her hands, while Oscar Pistorius’s sister Aimee sat in shocked silence, looking horrified, with tears running down her face.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel had just played a video clip showing Pistorius shooting at a watermelon and remarking that “it’s not as soft as brains” when the watermelon exploded.
“Did you see what happened to the watermelon? It exploded! That’s what happened to Reeva’s head. It had the same effect into her head. Take responsibility, Mr Pistorius,” said Nel. “Look at the picture… look at it. Here, have a look. Take responsibility. You did it,” he told Pistorius as the grisly picture was beamed on television screens in court and outside.
Pistorius would not turn his head to look at the screen next to him. “I won’t look at the picture and be tormented. As I picked up Reeva, my hand touched her head. I remember. I was there. I don’t have to look at a picture. I was there,” he said in a shaky voice before breaking down, turning to look away from the public gallery.
Nel insisted that Pistorius refused to look at the image because he wouldn’t take responsibility for his actions. He added that Pistorius had seen in practice now what his bullets would do, prompting defence advocate Barry Roux to object to these accusations.
Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered that the picture be removed from screens as the court adjourned for Pistorius to compose himself.
For 10 minutes, Pistorius wept inconsolably on the witness stand as Aimee and an aunt and psychologist Lora Hartzenberg, huddled around trying to console him.
Stunned journalists and members of the public mumbled “gruesome”, “insensitive”.
In the watermelon clip, Pistorius could be heard saying “It (watermelon) is not soft as brains but f*** it’s a zombie stopper”.
“Were you shooting at the watermelon to determine what the effect will be like to shoot someone in the brain?” asked Nel.
While Pistorius agreed that the “comments I made were distasteful”, he denied he made comparisons between the watermelon and a human brain. “The comment I made was distasteful but it was used in regard to a zombie and not to a human,” he said.
Pistorius was also taken to task on whether he went into his bathroom with the intention to shoot and kill. “Do you know what an accidental shooting is?” asked Nel.
When Pistorius responded, saying he had never intended to shoot anyone, Nel said: “So you never intended to shoot an intruder?”
Said Pistorius: “I heard the noises. I wasn’t meaning to shoot anyone. As I said I went to the bathroom… the time I had… I didn’t have time to think… When I heard the noise coming out of the toilet I believed the person was coming out to attack me.”
When asked if he discharged his firearm accidentally and if the only way out was for him to shoot the intruder, he said: “My firearm was in position. I had my finger on the trigger… I believed someone was coming out of the toilet…
I didn’t have time to think…
“I had to deal with a situation I had to deal with. I thought my life was in danger. At that time, I didn’t know what to do. I fired at the door. I believed somebody was coming to attack me.”
Nel, who had been going back and forth with Pistorius, asked if he was perhaps thinking of the implications of the answer, hence his response. Pistorius said he had to think before talking as “my life is on the line”.
Nel retorted: “Reeva doesn’t have her life.”