Pistorius trial enters home stretch

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oscar face june 30 EPA Oscar Pistorius admits he has a dark side. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee/EPA/Pool

Pretoria - The murder trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius will enter its last stages on Thursday when closing arguments will be presented in the High Court in Pretoria.

During cross-examination, the athlete took the blame for the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp: “I blame myself for taking Reeva's life”.

On July 8, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that no heads of argument could be published in print or electronic media until the commencement of the arguments in court.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused Pistorius of killing Steenkamp “in cold blood”.

Nel said the court should find that Pistorius's account of the shooting on Valentine's Day last year was “so improbable that it could not reasonably, possibly be true”.

“She was locked into the bathroom and you armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her. That is what you did,” Nel said.

Nel said neighbours, who testified that they heard blood-curdling screams, in fact heard Steenkamp's cries when she tried to “escape” from Pistorius.

Pistorius testified that he was the one who was screaming as he tried to break down the toilet door, trying to reach Steenkamp after the shooting.

Barry Roux SC, for Pistorius, told the court that decibel tests were done on the athlete to prove that he screams like woman when he is anxious.

During the trial, Nel accused Pistorius of faking emotional distress on the witness stand because he knew his version of why he shot and killed Steenkamp did not hold water.

Pistorius protested that he had become emotional because he was recalling a traumatic event.

Pistorius's defence also threw their share of blows to the State's case.

Roux accused a former police officer of using his testimony to spare the State the embarrassment of calling to the stand a colleague who had compromised evidence.

“You allowed yourself to give evidence that was designed to take the place of Mr Botha,” Roux said to former police colonel Giliam van Rensburg during cross-examination.

He was referring to Hilton Botha, the investigator who was dropped from the high-profile case last year after he admitted to contaminating the scene.

Roux also questioned Van Rensburg on the reliability of photos taken at the crime scene and asked if they could be relied on.

Roux said there were contradictions in evidence submitted by radiologist Johan Stipp, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene.

He accused witnesses of tailoring their evidence.

Pistorius underwent a month-long psychiatric evaluation at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, after which the court heard he did not suffer from general anxiety disorder.

The State closed its case on March 25 after it called 21 of the 107 witnesses on its witness list.

The witnesses included Pistorius's neighbours, a security guard at his estate, the pathologist, ballistics expert, cellphone expert, Pistorius's ex-girlfriend and former friends.

During the trial, the court heard about numerous WhatsApp messages exchanged between Pistorius and Steenkamp a month before she was killed.

In one of the messages, Steenkamp told the athlete that he picked on her excessively. She did everything to make him happy and he did everything to throw tantrums. She told him she had fallen in love with him.

“I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me. You make me happy ninety percent of the time and I think we are amazing together... but I am not some other bitch... trying to kill your vibe...” Steenkamp wrote in a cellphone message.

During the trial, everything leading up to the death of Steenkamp was scrutinised, including when she last ate and the contents of her stomach.

Pistorius is also charged with three contraventions of the Firearms Control Act – one of illegal possession of ammunition and two of discharging a firearm in public. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges as well.

Pistorius allegedly fired a shot from a Glock pistol under a table at a Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013. On September 30, 2012 he allegedly shot through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein.

Masipa - with the assistance of her two assessors - will make a judgment after the closing arguments, which were set down for Thursday and Friday.

Sapa



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