News World Pistorius faces gruelling cross-examination

Pistorius faces gruelling cross-examination

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Oscar Pistorius is facing a second day of gruelling cross-examination in his murder trial, as the prosecution accuses him of caring more about himself than the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecution lawyer Gerrie Nel kept tearing into the 27-year-old’s account of his relationship with Steenkamp, painting the star Paralympian sprinter as selfish and self-obsessed.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel  cross-examines Oscar Pistorius. Picture: AAP
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel cross-examines Oscar Pistorius. Picture: AAP

“It’s all about ‘I’. It’s all about Mr Pistorius,” Nel said, reading mobile phone messages in which Steenkamp said she was upset and “scared” of Pistorius’s behaviour.

Nel’s fierce questioning on Wednesday brought Pistorius to tears and drew angry retorts and on Thursday, the prosecutor quickly renewed his line of attack.

“In an attempt to evaluate your relationship, we rely on what you say, it was the other person in this relationship that was killed by you,” he said bringing Pistorius to a tearful admission.

Nel also accused Pistorius of making a public apology to Steenkamp’s parents just to make himself feel better.

“Did you feel better after the apology?” Nel asked facetiously.

Aside from the fireworks, the double amputee sprinter is likely to face persistent questions about the minutiae of what happened on Valentine’s Day 2013, when he shot Steenkamp through a closed door in his flat in what prosecutors say was premeditated murder and Pistorius said was an accident.

It’s all about ‘I’. It’s all about Mr Pistorius

Pistorius has blamed his lawyers for discrepancies between his accounts given at a bail hearing and in previous written testimony.

The state charges that Pistorius intentionally fired his gun at a closed bathroom door, knowing his model girlfriend was inside, after the couple argued.

But Pistorius says he fired the four shots that hit the 29-year-old law graduate, model and aspiring actress, thinking that she was an intruder coming out to attack him.

Prosecution lawyer Nel took a fierce tone from the start of his cross-examination on Wednesday, showing the court a graphic picture of the slain model’s head wounds with coagulated blood and brain matter.

“Have a look there, I know you don’t want to because you don’t want to take responsibility,” he said.

“I don’t want to look at a picture where I’m tormented by what I saw,” Pistorius replied wailing through tears.

Crucial point

Pistorius’s cross-examination is a key point in his trial, and a stern test of both his version of events and of his resolve.

During the five-week trial the world-famous athlete has appeared fragile, frequently crying in court and becoming physically sick when the gruesome details of Steenkamp’s injuries were discussed.

In testimony on Wednesday Pistorius seemed in turn defiant and harrowed, refusing pleas to answer questions directly.

“My life is on the line… of course I think of every single word I say when I’m sitting here,” he said.

“But Reeva doesn’t have a life anymore. Because of what you’ve done, she’s not alive anymore,” Nel thundered back.

“So please listen to the questions and give us the truth, and not think of the implications for you.”

Pistorius is likely to remain on the stand for at least the rest of this week as his extensive testimony is probed and picked at by Nel, who once won a corruption conviction against a South African police commissioner.

Pistorius faces a life sentence if convicted of murder.

Eventually set down for three weeks, the trial could run until mid-May, possibly even longer.


A mother’s gaze

Steenkamp’s mother June has attended each day of Pistorius’s trial in Pretoria.

“It’s very traumatic when certain things come up,” she told British tabloid the Daily Mirror.

“This is my child – and I must listen to the graphic detail.

June Steenkamp, mother of murdered model Reeva.
June Steenkamp, mother of murdered model Reeva.

“I look at Oscar the whole time, to see how he is coping, how he is behaving. I’m obsessed with looking at him, it’s just instinctive, I can’t explain it.”

Ms Steenkamp, 67, said the athlete’s courtroom demeanour had been very dramatic with “the vomiting and crying”.

“I don’t know whether he’s acting,” she said.

I don’t know whether he’s acting

“Most of the time he’s on his cell phone or looking down at papers or writing notes.”

The heartbroken mother feels her presence unnerves Pistorius because he’s answerable to her.

“I don’t know the man. All I know is what he’s done,” she said.

“He must see me there in the court, he must feel my eyes boring into him, I think it makes a lot of difference.”

Ms Steenkamp admitted she probably looked at the 27-year-old too much to see how he was reacting.

But she added: “I don’t care what happens to Oscar, I don’t even care if he goes free.”

“All I know is that he has to stand up to what he’s done and – if he has to – pay for it.

“What difference is it going to make to me if he goes to prison for 25 years or is allowed to walk free?”

Ms Steenkamp said Pistorius had an aggressive persona and was used to people adoring him.

“So it must be pretty different for him now,” she said.

“He’s been spoilt by other people, that’s why he struts around and looks superior. He’s gone from hero to devil.”

Pistorius claims he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder.

-with AAP