‘Why did Reeva not speak from the toilet?’
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Pretoria - Why did Reeva Steenkamp not call out to Oscar Pistorius when she was in the toilet, and he was screaming for her to phone the police?
This is the question that State prosector Gerrie Nel put to Oscar Pistorius in his murder trial in the High Court in Pretoria.
Nel said this was the most improbable aspect of Pistorius’s version.
In the course of Friday’s cross-examination, Pistorius was asked about his memory of the shooting, where he claimed he fired at a perceived intruder inside his toilet.
The athlete said he had a solid memory prior to the shooting, but the frantic events afterwards were less clear.
Nel asked Pistorius if while he retrieved his gun after hearing a noise in his bathroom whether he'd bent down. Pistorius said he was on his stumps and hadn't needed to.
When he got to the passage, he shouted to Steenkamp to get down and made his way down it.
Pistorius said he wanted to put himself between Steenkamp and the perceived intruder in the bathroom.
Nel said if Pistorius cared about Steenkamp, he would have checked on her first. Pistorius said he was sure she was in bed because he had spoken to her a short while before.
Nel said that talking to Steenkamp had only been invented for his testimony, as it had not appeared in his bail application.
“During your bail application, you did not think there'd be a need to invent this at that stage,” said Nel.
Nel also asked why if Pistorius thought Steenkamp was awake he hadn't made sure she was alright.
“It's because it's not the truth,” said Nel.
The prosecutor said that when earlier witnesses (Pistorius's neighbours) had woken up to the sound of shots, the couples had all checked on each other first.
PIstorius said he was overcome with fear, and had to keep his eye on the passage in case the intruder approached.
“I say, Mr Pistorius, a reasonable person would have looked where Reeva was,” said Nel.
Pistorius admitted he never established if Steenkamp had heard the danger.
“If you'd spoken to Reeva, the two of you could have taken lots of other steps,” said Nel.
The prosecutor said that the pair of them could have gone to the balcony, but Pistorius said this would have left them vulnerable.
Nel said Pistorius could have hid, and both kept an eye on the passage.
After arming himself, Pistorius ran towards the perceived danger. Nel asked if Pistorius was “ready to shoot”, but the athlete said he was never ready to shoot.
Nel said Pistorius had armed himself, and released the safety mechanism. The prosecutor said Pistorius had because he “wanted to shoot”.
Nel suggested that if Pistorius had seen someone, he would have shot. Pistorius said he never wanted to take a life, and that he'd shouted first as a warning to get out of his house.
The athlete said he was unable to say what he would have done if he'd been confronted, and that he would have had to think.
Pistorius said he'd started shouting for Steenkamp to phone the police and for the intruders to leave when he entered the passageway. There was no response from Steenkamp.
“You're vulnerable, but you go towards the danger?” asked Nel.
Pistorius said if he'd stayed in the room, both he and Steenkamp would have been in danger. Nel shot back that if Pistorius had stayed, Steenkamp would still be alive.
“Everybody's instinct is different,” the athlete responded when Nel said anyone's instinct would be to check on their partner.
Nel said Pistorius and Steenkamp could have left through the main bedroom, if an intruder did exist.
“I don't know why I didn't do that,” said Pistorius, adding that he had limited mobility on his stumps.
Nel accused him of making up a version to cover up the killing.
Pistorius said his version had not changed since his bail application.
He said it was his personality to confront the danger and protect Steenkamp.
Nel said Pistorius had an understanding of the layout of his bathroom. Nel asked if when Pistorius shouted loudly Steenkamp had responded. Pistorius said that she had not.
After entering the bathroom, Pistorius said he stopped shouting to not give his position away. He then heard a door closing inside the bathroom.
He saw the window was open, and wasn't sure if someone was on a ladder outside or if someone else had hidden in the toilet cubicle.
Pistorius said he was sure - at the time - that someone had climbed through his window.
He said the bathroom wasn't as dark as his bedroom, as there was ambient light from outside.
Pistorius said the toilet cubicle door was usually open.
Nel said Pistorius knew that if someone was in the cubicle, they would have very limited space and could not escape.
Pistorius said they could climb out the window or simply come out the door.
Nel said it was unreasonable for an intruder to climb through the window and then hide in the toilet.
Pistorius said that was what he thought at the time based on the noises he heard.
Nel said that Steenkamp was three metres away from Pistorius when he shouted, and she never responded.
“Of your whole version, this is the most improbable,” said Nel.
Pistorius argued Steenkamp may have been too frightened to call out or speak. Nel said it was even more unbelievable that when in the toilet she would have remained silent.”There is no way you will convince the court she stood there, quiet,” said Nel.
“She wasn't scared of an intruder...She was scared of you,” he said.
Pistorius once again became emotional, and said that Steenkamp had been in another incident where “she locked herself away” and wasn't able to speak to people for a day afterward.
“Did she scream at all when you shot her four times?” Nel then questioned.
Pistorius said Steenkamp had never screamed. “Are you sure, Mr Pistorius?” The athlete, red faced, leaned back in his chair and sighed.
A moment later he admitted his ears were ringing. Nel said this meant there was a possibility he just couldn't hear Steenkamp screaming.
“A woman didn't scream at any point, that's my version,” said Pistorius.
Nel then said the court had heard about Pistorius' emotions, but that Steenkamp would have been absolutely terrified in her final moments.
The prosecutor said Pistorius had never mentioned what Steenkamp felt.
Pistorius said he'd thought about her feelings many, many times.
He went on to tell how after arriving in front of the cubicle he heard a noise of “wood moving”, so he fired.
Pistorius said for the first time that he thought he'd heard the door opening.
“Why would you think that somebody was coming out to attack you?” asked Nel.
Pistorius said he didn't have the luxury of time to think.
Nel said Pistorius' perception was totally incorrect, and that he knew that Steenkamp was behind the door.
The lawyer said this was the only thing that made sense.
Earlier, Pistorius was shown a photograph of the denim jeans he said he'd picked up to cover an LED light the night he shot and killed Steenkamp.
The jeans were shown just touching the duvet that was on Pistorius' bedroom floor.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued the jeans were lying on the bedding, which the defence had rejected.
Another zoomed in photo showed the top of the jeans were touching the corner of the bedding.
On this basis, Nel asked to continue his cross-examination.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said that if defence advocate Barry Roux had any issues, he should bring this up in his re-examination.
Nel said this created a difficulty in Pistorius' version of the night of the shooting. Pistorius said that police must have moved the items in the room, as he claimed in his prior testimony.
Pistorius had earlier claimed that the duvet had been on the bed when he got up to pick up the jeans and then dropped them when he heard a noise coming from the bathroom. Nel said this couldn't be true if the jeans were on top of the bedding.
“When I looked at the photos, all I saw were inconsistencies,” said Pistorius.
Nel then asked about the fans that Pistorius said he brought out of the balcony doorway into the room just before the shooting.
Nel asked if Pistorius had possibly bumped into the fans when getting up to bring them in, or after he put on his prosthetic legs after the shooting. Pistorius said he had not. Pistorius said he couldn't remember if he'd bumped the fan cable that Nel said he would have had to go over to get to the balcony doorway.
“It's because it never happened,” said Nel, prompting Pistorius to become emotional.
When asked why he was upset, Pistorius said: “This is a person that I cared about, I don't know how people don't understand that”.
A short adjournment was called for Pistorius to regain his composure, and his sister, Aimee, approached State prosecutor Andrea Johnson, looking irritated.
* The case has been postoned to Monday morning.