Pretoria - After subjecting Oscar Pistorius to six gruelling days in the witness stand, the prosecution is confident that the court will find that he shot at Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year with the sole purpose of killing her.
In concluding his cross- examination on Tuesday, Gerrie Nel said the court, looking at the objective facts, together with the circumstantial evidence, would find Pistorius’s version was not only untruthful, but totally improbable.
The court would also find that Steenkamp ate two hours prior to her death while having an argument with Pistorius and that she, as testified by neighbours, gave blood-curdling screams as she tried to escape from him.
“You fired four shots, knowing she was hiding in the toilet. You armed yourself with the sole purpose of killing her and that is what you did. You were afterwards overcome by what you did, but your intention was to kill her,” Nel said.
Pistorius responded: “The opposite is true, my lady.”
Barry Roux SC objected and said that at most Nel could argue this, but Nel was adamant the court would come to the same finding.
Earlier in the day, Nel told Pistorius that Steenkamp’s jeans on the floor in the bedroom were turned inside out, proving she wanted to get dressed to leave his home when they argued and he had threatened her.
Pistorius said this was untrue, adding she was wearing her pyjamas when he got home earlier that night.
Nel also questioned Pistorius’s version that, after firing his pistol and suspecting Steenkamp was in the toilet, he tried to kick open and shoulder-butt the door with a loaded gun in hand. “Why did you do this?” he asked. Pistorius said he had no idea why.
Nel responded: “It was because it never happened.”
According to Pistorius, he kept on shouting to Steenkamp and Jesus to help him.
Questioning him on what he found when he managed to open the door, Pistorius said Steenkamp was sitting on the floor, on her right buttock, with her arm on top of the toilet bowl and her head slumped on her shoulder.
Pistorius said he held her against him and checked whether she was breathing. By now he was no longer shouting, but crying. “I was overcome with terror and despair.”
Nel pointed out that this part of the cross-examination dealt with what was not in dispute – everything which happened after Pistorius had shot her. “Up to the shots, you struggled with your version, because it did not happen,” Nel said.
Shortly before concluding his questioning, Nel asked who was to blame for the fact that Steenkamp was shot. “You, Reeva, the government? Who must take the blame for the bullets which ripped her body?”
Pistorius responded he did not know. He just believed that his and Steenkamp’s lives were in danger.
And while it took Nel six days of intense emotions to cross-examine Pistorius, in just under 10 minutes, re-examination by Roux was done and dusted.
He faced only four questions from Roux: the slamming door; whether the shooting was an accident; his feelings as he approached the toilet door; and whether he consciously pulled the trigger.
“When you talk about an accident, what do you mean?” asked Roux. Pistorius’s answer was “the situation as a whole”.
He said he was overcome by “complete terror, feelings of helplessness (and) not being able to defend myself”.
The last question, “Did you consciously pull the trigger or not?”, appeared to tighten Gerrie Nel’s assertion that Pistorius had moved from having only one defence – putative self-defence, where he asserts he believed he was in danger and fired shots to protect himself from the “intruder” – to having involuntary action as his other defence.
“I didn’t think about pulling the trigger. As soon as I heard the noise, I pulled the trigger,” Pistorius said.
Professor James Grant, from the Wits School of Law, said this raised credibility issues, while Professor Wium de Villiers, of Pretoria University, said “two versions are as good as no version”.
And on Tuesday, Pistorius seemed to hold on to firing shots involuntarily.
“I think they’ve got a major issue there, and that’s the crux of their defence. You need a version to decide if it’s reasonably possibly true, and two versions is as good as no version,” said De Villiers.
On Roux not probing issues raised by Nel further, he said: “The purpose of re-examination is to clear up something that might be unclear. He probably thought those items that are not to their advantage, there’s nothing to do about it… he won’t be able to rectify the situation in re-examination.”