Prosecutors questioned the character of Oscar Pistorius at his murder trial Thursday, accusing him of being self-centered, possessive and acting selfishly towards slain girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and her parents.
On the second day of a robust cross-examination, state lawyer Gerrie Nel ripped apart Pistorius’ dramatic courtroom apology on Monday in which the double-amputee Olympian addressed the Steenkamps for the first time.
Nel suggested that the WhatsApp messages between the athlete and the 29-year-old model revealed their relationship had been troubled. He asked why the phrase “I love you” had not appeared in any of the messages between the couple.
The sprinter maintained they were in the "foundation phase of their relationship," adding: “I never got the opportunity to tell Reeva that I love her.”
Pistorius added that the apology to his victim's family was the "right thing to do" and "something I've wanted to do for a very long time."
Nel asked Pistorius about messages Reeva sent accusing him of throwing “tantrums” and “screaming” at her. She told the athlete: “You have picked on me incessantly.”
Pistorius denied ever screaming at Reeva, and said his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor had lied when she testified he had screamed at her.
“I have never thrown a tantrum in front of people, maybe I brushed Reeva off,” Pistorius said. “I never shouted or screamed at her.”
The athlete also insisted that he "never picked on her."
Nel said the messages painted a picture of a self-centered man who was only concerned with his own feelings. “It’s all about Mr Pistorius,” the lawyer said. “There are lots of ‘I’s here.”
He said the athlete had repeatedly criticized Reeva and that his messages of apology had held her responsible for their arguments. "You blamed her," Nel said.
"I didn't treat her badly," the runner insisted.
Nel questioned the sprinter's motives for apologizing to Reeva's parents in the glare of the world's media from the dock as opposed to in private during the more than a year since he fatally shot Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013.
“Did you feel better after the apology?” asked Nel. “Why would you create a spectacle in court in public?”
Pistorius said he has wanted to apologize to the Steenkamps in person but did not think they were ready.
Nel asked whether Pistorius he had considered the effect of apologizing in public. “You never, did you, think how they would experience that? Or does it only matter about Oscar Pistorius? Why did you put them through this?”
Nel suggested Pistorius hadn’t been “humble enough” to apologize in private.
“That’s not true,” Pistorius said. “My counsel had been in contact with the Steenkamps … and … they weren’t ready to meet with me.”
“At court, did you try?” Nel asked.
“I didn’t think they would appreciate it,” Pistorious.
“And so you did it with whole world watching!” Nel exclaimed.
Gasps of distress echoed around the courtroom as prosecutors demanded the Olympian look at a picture of the injuries his bullets left in Steenkamp’s head.
Nel showed the court a video of the double-amputee athlete blowing up a watermelon at a gun range to the sound of laughter - a legal move that took his defense team by surprise.
“You know that the same thing happened to Reeva’s head,” the prosecutor told Pistorius as the court was shown a horrific picture of Steenkamp's wounded head. “It exploded. It had the exact same effect. It’s time that you looked at it. Take responsibility.”
Pistorius, 27, is accused of premeditated murder but insists that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four bullets through a bathroom door.
The trial continues.