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Prosecutor grills Oscar Pistorius: 'You shot and killed her. Say it'

Prosecutor grills Oscar Pistorius: 'You shot and killed her. Say it'
MGN Online
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:56am

"You made a mistake? You shot and killed her. Say it -- 'I shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.'"

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel fired at Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday, vowing to "get to the truth" as he began cross-examining the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter over the killing of his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year.

No one disputes that Pistorius killed Steenkamp. But the prosecution is trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did so knowingly and intentionally -- that it was murder.

Pistorius admitted to the killing under sobs, but he has said it was a horrible mistake, that he thought an intruder was in the bathroom, when he fired through the door and killed Steenkamp.

Before Nel went after Pistorius, Barry Roux -- the runner's defense attorney -- tossed him a question to drive that argument home. He asked Pistorius if he intended to kill Steenkamp.

"I did not intend to kill Reeva," he said.

The night of the killing

His third day on the stand, Pistorius had earlier finished recounting to the court what he remembered from the night she died, starting with the moment he opened his bathroom door and saw her bloodied from his own gunfire.

Steenkamp's blood ran down over him as he tried to pick her up. His voice quivered, as he spoke.

The track star picked up where he left off the previous day, when he became so upset by his own testimony about the night he shot his girlfriend to death, that he broke down into uncontrollable sobs on the stand.

Steenkamp was sitting slumped over the toilet bowl, Pistorius said, his voice quivering. "I checked to see if she was breathing and she wasn't."

He said he pulled her weight onto him and cried. That's when her blood streamed down on him, he said.

Pistorius had grabbed Steenkamp's cellphone, but did not know the pass code, so he went to get his own to call for help, he said.

A short time after, he was no longer alone. Others arrived, and eventually he left in a police car, he told the court.

Neighbors, police, arrest

He dialed a neighbor, Johan Stander. When he arrived, Pistorius was shouting and screaming for him to help him get her to the hospital, the runner testified.

Then another neighbor, Dr. Johann Stipp, who is a physician, arrived at Pistorius' house. The doctor seemed overwhelmed by the situation, Pistorius said.

Then two police officers arrived at his door -- one of them a key witness in his trial, former Col. G.S. van Rensburg, Pistorius said.

"Every time I looked up there were more people in the house. There were more policeman. There were people going up and down the stairs. I was standing in the kitchen. I asked a policeman if I may wash my hands because the smell of blood was making me throw up."

Van Rensburg put his hand on Pistorius shoulder, the runner said. And told him to go to the garage to have some photos taken.

Pistorius asked the police photographer to take all the photos he needed "so I could take my clothes off because they were stained."

Police told him that he was under arrest and would face charges, Pistorius said. He walked to a police car. Officers told him to put his head down, because members of the media had collected outside.

Pistorius' upset ends hearing

On Tuesday, the athlete described tearfully how, gripped by fear, he shot Steenkamp dead through the locked toilet door thinking she was an intruder.

Conditioned by years of living in crime-ridden South Africa, Pistorius said the noises convinced him someone was breaking into his Pretoria home and he needed to protect himself and his girlfriend.

Pistorius said he made his way to the bathroom, pistol in hand. He braced himself against a bathroom wall as he noticed that a window was open, and became convinced that an intruder was inside his home, he said.

He testified about firing the shots and screaming for Steenkamp to call the police, until it slowly dawned on him that his girlfriend might have been the one behind the door.

"I was panicking at this point. I didn't know what to make or what to do," Pistorius recounted. "I don't think I've ever screamed like that. ... I was crying out to the Lord, I was crying out for Reeva," he said, choking back the tears.

He then recounted how he bashed out a panel of the wooden door with a cricket bat to find Steenkamp.

"I sat over Reeva and I cried," he said, before breaking down into uncontrollable sobs, causing Judge Thokozile Masipa to adjourn the hearing for the day.

'I was besotted with her'

The 27-year-old double amputee denies deliberately shooting Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. On his first day on the stand, on Monday, he made a tearful apology to Steenkamp's family.

The prosecution alleges Pistorius killed his girlfriend after they argued.

Several witnesses have testified to hearing a man's shouts coming from the house although they have also spoken of the terrified screams of a woman leading up to and during a volley of shots.

The trial, now in its 18th day, has gripped South Africa, and millions of sports and athletics fans around the world who saw Pistorius as a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.

His disabled lower legs were amputated as a baby, but he went on to achieve global fame as the "blade runner", winning numerous Paralympic gold medals.

Earlier, defense lawyer Barry Roux delved deeper into his relationship with Steenkamp, trying to show they had a loving relationship.

"If anything, I was more into her at times than she was with me ... I was besotted with her," Pistorius told the court in Pretoria, South Africa.

The couple met on November 4, 2012, Pistorius said, a little more than three months before Steenkamp died.

In affectionate messages read out in court, the pair used pet names like "baba" and "angel," said they missed each other and exchanged many "x"s, or kisses.

The image was a far cry from the gun-obsessed, fast-living hothead whom prosecutors sought to portray in the first three weeks of the trial.

Prosecutors have also used the same cache of messages retrieved from Pistorius' phone to reveal outbursts of temper and jealousy.

Recalling the evening

Pistorius was also asked on Tuesday about events earlier in the evening of February 13.

He said Steenkamp had offered to cook for him. Later, when they went upstairs, Pistorius opened the sliding doors on to the balcony off his bedroom because it was a humid evening and the air conditioning was not working.

He said he fell asleep between 9 and 10 p.m. and woke up later. Steenkamp then asked him if he couldn't sleep, he said -- and he got up to move the fans. He then heard the noise from the bathroom.

This was the first time he had indicated that Steenkamp was awake in the moments before the drama unfolded.

His lawyer asked for an adjournment so he could change out of his suit, allowing Pistorius to show how short he is without his prostheses on. The detail is important to his defense because he has said he feels very vulnerable without them on.

Only those in the courtroom can see Pistorius because he has chosen not to testify on camera. His testimony can be heard on an audio feed.

As he outlined his version of events, Steenkamp's mother June, who had sat steely faced throughout Pistorius' two days on the stand, leaned forward slowly and buried her head in her hands. 

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