Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp. Was it premeditated murder? It’s up to Judge Masipa to decide...
Gerrie Nel’s version
The Relationship: According to the State they had a troubled relationship, especially shortly before the killing.
Steenkamp sent Pistorius a WhatsApp message 17 days before her death, saying “I am scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you react to me”.
Three weeks before she was killed she told Pistorius that they did not make each other happy and that she was very unhappy.
Although all relationships have their ups and down, this one is different from the norm as it culminated in Pistorius shooting Steenkamp, Nel said. She sent him another message a week before her death, again complaining about how he criticised her, on this occasion loudly and in front of other people.
Nel said that while Pistorius tried to paint a picture of a loving relationship, facts paint a different story. They spent a quiet evening together, without even a suggestion of intimacy, and a neighbour said she heard an argument.
Why did Pistorius shoot Steenkamp: In the State’s version he and Steenkamp had an argument and he shouted at her, and not as claimed at the intruders, to “get the f…out of my house”. He used deadly Black Tallon ammunition which ripped through her body and the shots were directly aimed at Steenkamp, who was fully clothed. She had locked herself inside the tiny toilet cubicle and had taken her phone with her.
In the State’s version, according to the evidence of neighbours – living some distance away – they heard a woman’s blood-curdling screams followed by shots.
The State says there was no sound by intruders which caused an anxious Pistorius to arm himself. “It was just the accused firing four shots through the door with the direct intention to kill,” said Nel.
The proverbial “Baker’s dozen” – Pistorius’s “13 lies”: These include that Pistorius claimed he did not know what a “Zombie-Stopper” was, before being shown a video in which he and friends shot at a watermelon at a shooting range. He later conceded it was his voice saying, “It (the watermelon) is a lot softer than brains, but it is like a Zombie-Stopper”.
In his bail application he said he went out on the balcony to fetch fans, but in his evidence he said he never did. Nel said Pistorius did this so as to explain how he did not notice Steenkamp getting out of bed and going to the bathroom. Pistorius also lied that the duvet was on the bed and not on the floor, as photographed by the police that morning, Nel said.
The neighbours heard a woman screaming: Nel said although the defence said it will prove that the accused sounds like a woman when screaming, there was no attempt to prove this. He added it is significant that Pistorius screamed while breaking down the door, but there is no evidence of panic stricken screams when he saw Steenkamp lying in the toilet in a pool of her own blood.
Pistorius had to ensure that his evidence fitted in with those of State witnesses who did not hear screams after the shots. He therefore provided an improbable version that he stopped screaming with the last blow of the cricket bat, said Nel.
He added that several of the State witnesses were adamant they heard “a woman’s terrible screams” followed by shots. The screaming then stopped.
Barry Roux’s version
The Relationship: The State was relying on three of 1 700 electronic communications to justify a finding that Reeva Steenkamp was scared of Oscar Pistorius and that the relationship was all about him. Roux said, if read in context with all the other messages, the three messages are typical between people in a relationship, especially a young relationship.
He said there is no link between the messages and Steenkamp’s death. According to Roux the differences between the two were quickly resolved, often by Pistorius who said he was “sorry”.
While Steenkamp did say she was sometimes scared of Pistorius, this needed to be seen within the context of the entire message and not that she was afraid of him in a physical sense.
He said it is clear that a motive to kill her is absent from any of the messages. “The State knew that the three messages could never contribute to any motive and the State’s real intention was to try and portray the accused as being selfish and manipulative,” he said.
Why did Pistorius shoot Steenkamp: It was a terrible mistake and an accident. He did not know she was behind the toilet door, but genuinely believed there were intruders in his home, said Roux. He said Pistorius had remained true to his story and had told the first people on the scene that he mistook her for an intruder. He never changed his version throughout the proceedings.
Roux said Pistorius’ actions after the shooting were inconsistent with someone wanting to kill his girlfriend. He immediately called for help and tried to save her life. He broke down the toilet door, carried her down the steps and called the paramedics. Pistorius even went out on to the balcony, shouting for help.
“Why would he save her if he wanted her dead. This was all just a huge, unfortunate mistake,” said Roux.
The proverbial “Baker’s dozen” – Pistorius 13 “lies”: Roux said Pistorius cannot be blamed for not immediately knowing during cross-examination by Nel what a Zombie-Stopper” was, as his mind was “far away” from that subject at the time. He was focused on the events of the morning of the killing when he was suddenly asked that question.
Roux conceded that Pistorius may have made a mistake as to where things were positioned in the room, such as the duvet. But one should take into consideration that he had suffered from severe depression following the shooting.
He denied Pistorius deliberately said he fetched the fans from the balcony to explain why he did not see Steenkamp leaving the bed.
“Did he make certain she was in bed? No,” Roux said, adding that this cannot be held against his client.
The neighbours heard a woman screaming: Roux said, looking at the objective facts, neighbours who said they heard blood-curdling screams, did not hear Steenkamp’s voice. If one looked at the timeline, Steenkamp was already shot by then and incapable of screaming. What they heard was Pistorius screaming in a highpitched voice, said Roux.
He added that the defence did not need to call experts to prove that when anxious, Pistorius screamed like woman. He said the immediate neighbours cleared this up when they were called by the defence and testified that what they heard was a man screaming in a highpitched voice.