Wrapping up five days of relentless cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius at his murder trial, the chief prosecutor has insisted the Olympic runner intentionally shot his girlfriend to death after they argued.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he had no further questions on Tuesday after presenting the prosecution’s case that Pistorius is lying in his account of mistakenly shooting Reeva Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door.
Nel said the double-amputee runner killed her intentionally after a late night fight.
In the adjournment after his cross-examination, Pistorius rubbed his eyes and briefly sank his head into the shoulder of a man sitting with his family.
Throughout the gruelling questioning, Nel accused Pistorius of “tailoring” evidence and “concocting” a story that he shot out of fear of an intruder in a toilet cubicle in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of February 14, 2013.
“Unfortunately I have to put it to you that it’s getting more and more improbable,” Nel said of the story to Pistorius.
Nel asserted that the couple fought during the night and Steenkamp wanted to leave, then fled to the bathroom screaming before Pistorius shot her through the door with his 9mm pistol. Pistorius said he never heard Steenkamp scream, or say anything in the minutes before he shot her.
The prosecutor even charged that Pistorius fired the four shots from about three metres away from Steenkamp as he was talking and arguing with her, and changed his aim with later shots to ensure that he hit her as she fell back.
Nel’s unrelenting questioning and accusations provoked many denials by Pistorius and caused the athlete to break down in sobs on numerous occasions.
The athlete says that he thought Steenkamp was an intruder about to come out of the toilet to attack him. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.
Nel closed his cross-examination by inviting Pistorius to take the blame for shooting Steenkamp, but the runner steered away from a direct response, saying only that he opened fire because he believed his life was under threat. That remark drew barbed follow-up questions from the prosecutor.
“We should blame somebody … Should we blame Reeva?” asked Nel, who has harshly criticised Pistorius as someone who is unwilling to take responsibility.
“No, my lady,” Pistorius replied, addressing the judge in line with court custom.
Nel summed up by saying Pistorius intentionally killed Steenkamp.
Pistorius remained in the witness box while his chief lawyer Barry Roux asked him a series of follow-up questions after the recess, with Roux attempting to reinforce the account of a mistaken killing.
Roux asked Pistorius to describe his feelings and emotions in the seconds before he shot at the door.
“I was terrified. I feared for my life. I was just scared,” Pistorius said. “I was thinking about what could happen to me, to Reeva. I was just extremely fearful.”