Nel: Oscar's apology a 'spectacle'

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State prosecutor Gerrie Nel looks on as Oscar Pistorius testifies during his trial at the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday. Picture: Marco Longari

Pretoria - The sincerity of Oscar Pistorius's apology to the family of Reeva Steenkamp, and the nature of his arguments with the young model have been placed under the microscope.

At the Pretoria High Court on Thursday morning, State prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he had analysed Pistorius's relationship with Steenkamp in January and February, just a short while before she was shot and killed by the athlete.

Pistorius said he and the model were starting to open up to each other, to trust each other and learn more about each other.

Towards the end of January and beginning of February, Nel said the arguments between the couple became more fierce.

Pistorius said he thought that at this point, even with the arguments, the relationship had grown stronger.

Nel accused Pistorius of never sending a long message to Steenkamp discussing their relationship. Pistorius said he made these sort of conversations via phone calls and face to face rather than text messages.

Nel said Steenkamp had said she loved Pistorius twice, but that he had never said it back.

Pistorius admitted he never got the chance to say it.

The prosecutor argued that the arguments between the couple were focused on things important to Pistorius, and what concerned his career.

“You started your evidence in this court with an apology… That was more than a year after the event. What did you apologise for?” Nel asked.

Pistorius said he wanted to apologise for the massive damage he had done to the Steenkamp family. “It's something I wanted to do for a very long time,” said Pistorius.

But Nel said that Pistorius had chosen to make a “spectacle” of the apology in the public eye by apologising while the world was watching his trial.

Pistorius said he had not had the opportunity to meet with the Steenkamp family.

Nel said Pistorius only cared about alleviating his own guilt, and hadn't taken into account how the Steenkamp family had felt.

“Why weren't you humble enough to do it in private?” Nel asked.

His voice shaking, Pistorius said that his lawyers had been in contact with the Steenkamp family's lawyers, and the family had not been ready to see him.

Pistorius told the court he wanted the opportunity to sit down with Steenkamp's parents to apologise for taking the young woman's life, but he understood why they would not want to.

Nel read Pistorius's apology from his first day of testimony to the court, how he was sorry for their pain, but how he had failed to apologise for the taking Steenkamp's life.

“I am sorry for taking their daughter's life,” Pistorius responded.

At the end of January 2013, Pistorius and Steenkamp had an argument about the model wanting to stay longer at her friend's engagement party. Pistorius was sick and tired, had training the following morning and had asked her to leave the party early. In a long WhatsApp message, Steenkamp said that Pistorius had “picked on her” for days prior to the argument.

“When Reeva sent me this message, her feelings were hurt,” Pistorius said.

“In this message she was obviously upset, she was upset that I hadn't contacted her first,” he added.

Nel asked if Steenkamp was lying in this message, but Pistorius would only admit that the couple were having a rocky patch in their relationship.

Pistorius had apparently accused Steenkamp of flirting with someone at the party, which was reflected in Steenkamp's lengthy message. Steenkamp accused Pistorius of making a scene at the party.

The athlete admitted to making a scene when the model “tickled his neck” while he was agitated.

He said he had just “brushed Reeva off” when this happened.

Steenkamp also said the couple had a “double-standards” relationship, and that it often focused on Pistorius's needs.

Steenkamp seemed to be upset that even though Pistorius's dating history was often brought up, when she mentioned a “funny story” about an ex-boyfriend, he had become upset.

She said that Pistorius went out of his way to throw tantrums.

Pistorius said Steenkamp had been exaggerating because she was upset and that he had never thrown a tantrum in public.

Pistorius said that he had wanted to resolve the argument, and that his next message had asked when he could call her to do so.

“I'm scared of you sometimes,” Steenkamp wrote. Pistorius said that Steenkamp was scared of her feelings for the athlete and his reactions to her behaviour.

“Why would she be scared?” asked Nel.

Pistorius said he had never shouted or screamed at Steenkamp but admitted when questioned that he had screamed at a friend of his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor. The friend had apparently been drunk and disorderly at a party.

But Taylor testified earlier that Pistorius had shouted at her in the past, and Nel pointed out that Pistorius's defence had never put it to the court that this was a lie.

Pistorius said he had read Taylor's statement and that “there was very little truth in it”.

Nel then brought up another text message Steenkamp had sent: “I'm the girl who fell in love with you and wanted to tell you this weekend.”

“You didn't care,” Nel said, which Pistorius denied.

The athlete said he was extremely upset when he received the message, especially as this was the first time Steenkamp had mentioned “love”.

Steenkamp had also said Pistorius found her “accents” and “voices” were annoying.

Pistorius said the model was practising an accent for a role, and when they were discussing a serious matter, Steenkamp continued using the accent. Pistorius said that he told her this was annoying, and she must have taken offence.

“So you were strong enough in that relationship to tell her to stop her voices… and to stop chewing gum?” asked Nel.

Pistorius explained that they had been at an event and Steenkamp was chewing gum when they arrived. He said he had told her nicely that it did not “look good on camera”.

Once again, Nel accused Pistorius of only caring about how she would look on camera next to him. The athlete said he was just worried about how she would look.

“At that time she was doubting our relationship,” Pistorius said, when asked about how Steenkamp must have felt when writing the message.

Pistorius admitted that what he had done had humiliated Steenkamp.

Pistorius's Whatsapp response to Steenkamp said that he had no excuses for his behaviour. It also said that he had been upset with the model for not introducing him to the man she was supposedly flirting with, and she had ignored his feelings.

“You're blaming her for what happened… She was wrong,” said Nel. “That's what I'm saying, my lady,” Pistorius responded.

“You're replying to her unhappiness and putting the blame on her,” Nel shot back.

Pistorius denied this, saying he was trying to show he cared and wanted to resolve the argument.

Steenkamp had also complained of a song playing in Pistorius's car, and that she wasn't “some b*tch” who was trying to “kill (his) vibe”. Nel inferred the song playing in the car when the couple left the party was “B*tch, Don't Kill My Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar, and Pistorius said that playing this would have offended Steenkamp.

 

Pistorius said Steenkamp was a person who always stood up for herself, and if he had treated her badly, she would not have been dating him.

Nel then moved onto another charge Pistorius was facing, an incident when the athlete discharged a firearm at the Tashas restaurant in Melrose Arch. His friend Darren Fresco had passed him the gun under the table.

Pistorius said he did not discharge the firearm, even though he was holding it when it went off.

The athlete said his finger was not on the trigger when it fired.

Nel balked at this statement, and asked who then had fired the gun. “You just refuse to take responsibility,” said Nel.

“I think we were both negligent,” Pistorius said, as Fresco had passed him the loaded gun with the safety off.

“It was a stupid thing to do,” he added.

Nel pointed out there were children at the table next to the athlete. Pistorius was at first unable to remember what happened to the ejected bullet, but later said that the chamber was found by the restaurant's management and given back to Fresco, or another friend at the table, Kevin Lerena.

Pistorius was also asked about his attempts to buy a half dozen guns from Sean Rens, who had testified as a State witness.

Pistorius said that legally, he was allowed to own up to 30 firearms, and described how some of the guns he had ordered had interested him.

“I grew up in a family where both my parents had firearms,” said Pistorius.

Nel returned to the Tashas incident, and said that a State expert had said that the gun could not have gone off without a finger on the trigger.

Nel said Pistorius's defence had never argued against this, even though the athlete's version was that he had no finger on the trigger.

Pistorius said he was unsure why his defence advocate, Barry Roux, had not asked this.

“You will blame anybody but yourself. Now you will blame Mr Roux,” said Nel.

“I'm sure if Mr Roux didn't put that question to Mr Mangena, he had a good reason,” Pistorius responded.

“I didn't pull the trigger,” he then said.

But Nel said that no one else had touched the gun, and it was incapable of firing without the trigger being pulled. Pistorius, however, remained adamant he wasn’t responsible, and that he didn't know whether Mangena's evidence on the trigger was accurate.

shain.germaner@inl.co.za

The Star

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