MURDER TRIAL: Prosecutor Tells Pistorius “ You Are Tailoring Your Evidence”
The prosecutor at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has suggested the South African athlete is using his emotions “as an escape”. He broke down in tears four times on Monday and has also vomited in court.
“Now you trying to be emotional and it’s not working,” said prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
Mr Pistorius admits killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February last year, but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder.
Mr Nel said the Olympic sprinter, 27, had deliberately shot Ms Steenkamp, a model, after the couple had had an argument.
As the prosecutor resumed his cross-examination on Monday, he accused Mr Pistorius of “tailoring his evidence” as he went along to suit the defence case, which had been “concocted”.
“Your version of events is untrue,” Mr Nel said.
Shortly before the case adjourned for the day, Mr Nel said: “You’re getting emotional now because you’re getting frustrated because your version [of events] is improbable.
Oscar Pistorius has cried many tears over his shooting and killing of Reeva Steenkamp, but Mr Nel is sceptical about the athlete’s distress – or at the very least its motivation.
The court had two unplanned breaks today, both brought on by him breaking down on the stand.
The first came when he testified that on the night of the shooting, he had shouted at the perceived intruders to “get… out of my house”.
After the adjournment, Mr Nel asked why such a question would cause him distress, to which he replied that it had been an emotional night.
But Mr Nel suggested the tears were because he remembered that he had in fact said those words to Ms Steenkamp.
The second breakdown was when Mr Nel charged that the Paralympian had knowingly fired at his girlfriend. Mr Pistorius denied this, and became overwhelmed with emotion.
The prosecutor implied on more than one occasion that the timing of his breakdowns was suspect.
The prosecutor, known as “bull terrier” for his fierce style of questioning, then asked: “You’re not using your emotional state as an escape are you?”
The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in the South Africa capital Pretoria says Mr Nel spent much of the day trying to highlight apparent inconsistencies between Mr Pistorius’ bail application and his evidence in court.
On one occasion, when Mr Pistorius corrected Mr Nel, the prosecutor said this showed Mr Pistorius was a “stickler for detail” and yet on many aspects of the case, the athlete was being vague.
Earlier, Mr Nel again pressed Mr Pistorius on the moment he shot Ms Steenkamp.
The athlete, a double amputee, said he had not intended to kill anyone. “I fired out of fear,” he said. This prompted Mr Nel to say Mr Pistorius was changing his story from self-defence to saying he shot by accident.
The prosecutor said this was because the truth was: “You fired at Reeva.” “It’s not true,” Mr Pistorius replied, breaking into tears and prompting the court to briefly adjourn.
After the break, Mr Nel said that, as Mr Pistorius was trained to use firearms, the court could not accept he had fired by “mistake”. He also said that the athlete had changed his aim to hit Ms Steenkamp after she had fallen down when she was hit by the first bullet. This was denied by Mr Pistorius.
The prosecutor said the fact that a pair of Ms Steenkamp’s jeans was lying on the bed showed that she was in the middle of getting dressed in order to leave Mr Pistorius’ house when she was shot after the couple had argued in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.
This, too, was denied. The sprinter also started sobbing as he recalled shouting at the burglars he thought were in his house. When asked why he broke down, Mr Pistorius said: “I am traumatised” by the events of that night.
The prosecutor also pointed to forensic evidence that showed Ms Steenkamp had eaten within a couple of hours of her death. The athlete says the couple had last eaten together about 19:00, some eight hours before she was shot.
Mr Pistorius says there was no row and they had a quiet evening together, before he woke up on hearing a noise in the bathroom. Mr Nel said he would resume on Tuesday with a series of questions about the toilet.
Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream, but the defence disputes their testimony. The Olympic sprinter faces life imprisonment if convicted of murdering the 29-year-old model and law graduate.
If he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison. Mr Pistorius also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.
There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.