‘You armed yourself to kill Reeva’

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Murder accused Oscar Pistorius arrives for his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko

 

Pretoria - The State has closed its cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius, telling the athlete that he intended to kill his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Earlier, the State showed that much of Pistorius's testimony of what happened after he shot Steenkamp seemed to be accurate. But prosecutor Gerrie Nel said this implied the number of contradictions in events before the shooting meant the athlete was lying about the circumstances leading up to Steenkamp's death.

Nel began his cross-examination for the day by asking about the bathroom window Pistorius had thought the perceived intruder had entered through. According to Pistorius' version, Nel said, Steenkamp must have opened the window. Pistorius said this likely happened before she went to the toilet cubicle. Nel added that Steenkamp, according to this version, had time to void her bladder and get dressed before the shooting.

Nel said that Steenkamp must not have also had time to use the toilet before shutting the door.

But he said that there simply wasn't enough time for all of this to have happened.

In Pistorius' bail affidavit, he said he realised the intruder or intruders were hiding inside the cubicle, and heard “movement” inside the toilet.

Nel said that Pistorius had failed to mention the sound of “wood moving” inside the bathroom, which he revealed in his evidence in chief.

Nel said “movement” generally implied people moving, not the magazine rack that Pistorius theorised had moved before he shot.

The lawyer asked why Pistorius had not just said he heard a sound in the cubicle, rather than such a specific term. This was once again an accusation that Pistorius was tailoring his evidence to fit with state witness testimony.

Pistorius had said he thought the sound of the magazine rack moving was actually the door opening, and an attacker was set to emerge. Pistorius said he inferred the sound was the magazine rack because the door had not opened.

Nel put it to Pistorius that he was constantly thinking of “a version”, and that rather than telling the truth, was always calculating his answers.

“It's getting more and more improbable and you're tailoring more evidence as we go on,” said Nel.

Nel then asked about the pair of Steenkamp's jeans being inside out. Nel said Steenkamp must have taken them off in a hurry, and possibly because of an argument between the couple.

Pistorius then returned to the moments after the shooting where he'd returned to his bed to put on his prosthetic legs, gun in hand.

He tried to force the door open with his body, but realised he'd need his cricket bat to open the barrier.

He struck the door on its frame, screaming as he did. “I was crying out for the Lord to help me. I was screaming for Reeva,” said Pistorius.

After subsequent hits, he broke through.

Nel asked if Pistorius was shouting throughout, which he said he had.

The athlete also admitted he shoulder-charged the door with the gun still in hand, using his left shoulder, and his left hand to try the door handle.

Nel asked why he'd still been carrying the gun if he was trying to force his way through.

Pistorius said he'd also tried kicking the door, before retrieving the bat.

He said the more desperate he got as he couldn't get into the cubicle, he kept on crying and screaming.

Nel suggested that Pistorius was actually screaming at Steenkamp earlier in the night because she'd been hiding in the toilet after an argument. The athlete denied it.

Pistorius was asked to perform a demonstration of how he hit the door with the cricket bat.

Expert state witness, Colonel Vermeulen, put the bat against the marks on the reconstructed bathroom door in court, and Pistorius was asked to take hold of the bat.

In his demonstration, Pistorius was standing to the left of the door, close to it. Nel said that based on this, Pistorius would have hit higher if he'd been wearing his prosthetic legs when hitting the door.

Pistorius said the position he showed to the court was comfortable, and he was on his prosthetics.

He showed the court that a small piece of the door had broken off after hitting it with the bat, and he saw Steenkamp through it.

He ripped through a larger panel, and grabbed the key on the floor of the inside of the cubicle to unlock it.

According to Pistorius, Steenkamp's body was sitting on the floor to the right of the toilet, her head was on her shoulder, leaning on the toilet seat. Her back was against the wall.

Pistorius began to sound emotional as he described her positioning.

Nel asked about the magazine rack, which Pistorius said was not in its usual position directly to the right of the toilet bowl. He said the rack was against another wall on the right.

Pistorius said he crouched over Steenkamp's body, and checked to see if she was breathing or had a pulse. He heard her breathing, and immediately tried to move her. He manoeuvred around her, and said he may have kicked the magazine rack.

Nel said kicking the rack was a reconstruction and not one of Pistorius' actual memories.

Steenkamp's phone was on the floor, so Pistorius picked it up, but couldn't access it because of a password.

He dropped or put down the phone, and ran to the room to get his phone.

He ran to be with Steenkamp while he phoned Johan Stander, estate security manager, to come and help him.

An image of the bathroom, the cricket bat and phones was shown to the court. Pistorius has accused investigators of moving items at the scene of the crime, but Pistorius said on Tuesday morning that he couldn't remember where he'd placed his gun in the bathroom before striking the door.

Nel asked if Pistorius had any specific recollection of where he'd placed the items and whether police had moved them. Pistorius said he'd only been able to tell where the items had moved through the crime scene photos.

After calling Stander, Pistorius called paramedics who said he should get Steenkamp to a hospital.

Nel asked Pistorius why immediately after finding the body, he hadn't screamed. Pistorius said he didn't see the purpose in screaming then, but Nel said that the athlete had been screaming with little purpose prior. Pistorius said his panic was different, and by this point he was “broken”, crying instead of screaming.

But Nel said it was only because Pistorius had heard witness testimony that said no more screams were heard after the bangs of the cricket bat that he changed his story.

Nel also said it was odd that upon seeing Steenkamp's body that Pistorius hadn't shouted towards her to find out if she was still alive.

The prosecutor then moved onto the athlete's other phone calls.

Pistorius said he didn't remember calling estate security, despite phone records showing he had.

Security guard, Pieter Baba, told the court weeks ago that Pistorius had told him “everything (was) fine” after the shooting.

But Pistorius denied this.

The athlete then carried Steenkamp downstairs, while Stander and his daughter arrived at the scene.

They told Pistorius to rather wait for an ambulance.

Pistorius was asked about how he'd called a friend, Justin Divaris, shortly after the shooting.

Pistorius had taken his phone downstairs, and made the call then.

Nel said Tuesday's cross-examination was meant to point out that after the shooting, most of Pistorius' testimony was probable “because it actually happened”. Nel said only leading up to the shooting were there severe inconsistencies that meant the athlete was not telling the truth.

Upon receiving a note from a colleague, Nel quickly returned to the magazine rack, where he asked Pistorius how it had moved back into its original position.

Nel said if it had been moved, someone would have had to place it over the pool of blood, because there was minimal streaks from its legs on the floor.

The state's pathologist had also said that Steenkamp, after absorbing the first bullet, dad slumped onto the magazine rack. This had propped her up, which meant she was in the line of fire for the other three bullets.

But Pistorius' version of the rack on the right hand wall could not explain the bruises on Steenkamp's back she allegedly sustained when falling onto it.

Nel said it also couldn't explain the blood on the rack, where Steenkamp's head must have touched it.

Another smear on the wall was also visible, and Nel said it couldn't have been made if the rack was where Pistorius had indicated.

Nel then asked Pistorius who should be blamed for the shooting. Pistorius said he believed there was a threat on his life.

“So once again, we shouldn't blame you for the shooting? Should we blame Reeva? Should we blame the government?” asked Nel.

Pistorius said “no” to both and he could not be blamed. “Who should we blame for the black talon rounds that ripped through her body?” asked Nel.

Pistorius said it was simply ammunition used for his type of firearm. Nel said there were only two people in the house, and Pistorius had killed Reeva, that the athlete's version was untrue, and that it's so improbable that it could not be reasonably possible.

Nel said Steenkamp had eaten shortly before her death, and that a neighbour had heard voices coming from Pistorius' home hours before the shooting.

Nel said other neighbours heard Steenkamp's screams prior to her death, not Pistorius'.

The lawyer said Pistorius had armed himself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing a person.

Nel said afterwards, Pistorius was overcome with what he'd done.

Nel then closed his cross-examination.

* At the start of the day, Nel brought an application for a postponement of the case. He said the time set aside for the matter had passed, and that his team's diaries had become “clogged up”.

One of his colleague's had a matter she had to attend in the next few days. Nel said the defence had agreed to this application as well.

Certain “personal” aspects also had to be taken into account, he told the court. He said on Tuesday, the cross-examination of the athlete would come to an end.

He then asked for a postponement to Monday, 5 May, which was only about 7 working days from Tuesday.

Defence advocate Barry Roux said his case would likely be completed by 16 May. Judge Thokozile Masipa reserved her ruling until Wednesday.

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