Oscar Pistorius was so "overcome with sadness" that he didn’t scream when he found his girlfriend dying moments after firing four shots through a bathroom door, the double-amputee Olympian told his murder trial Tuesday.
The 27-year-old sprinter described how he broke down the door with a cricket bat to get at Reeva Steenkamp, who had been struck by three hollow-point bullets. Pistorius says he mistook the model and law graduate for an intruder but the prosecution alleges that they had been arguing and that the shooting was premeditated.
On the fifth and final day of Pistorius' cross-examination, prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked why the athlete didn’t scream after discovering he had shot his girlfriend.
“Why would you not scream then?” Nel added. “It’s the first time you know she’s in the toilet. Why did you not scream then?”
“I don’t know what the purpose would be of screaming,” Pistorius replied. “I was overcome with sadness, I was crying.”
The court was shown a police photo of the messy scene of blood, Steenkamp’s phone, the cricket bat, a towel and a gun.
“I sat down over her … I checked to see if she was breathing or if she had a pulse and then I didn’t feel that she did so I just pulled her onto me,” Pistorius said. “Then I heard her breathing so immediately I tried to pick her up and get her out of the toilet.”
Pistorius was also asked to get out of the witness box and demonstrate the swinging movement he made with the cricket bat in front of the door, which is in the court room as an exhibit.
“I was screaming, I hit the frame in the door,” he said. “She was sitting on the floor to the right of the toilet.”
Nel asked Pistorius about his version of events in which he heard the bathroom window open, armed himself, walked into the passage towards the bathroom and screamed a warning to the intruder.
Steenkamp was found with very little urine in her body, and full dressed in the T-shirt and basketball shorts she had been wearing in bed.
“On your version, she must have had time to void her bladder and get dressed,” Nel said. “Mr Pistorius, on my understanding there would not have been enough time for her to do that.”
“I disagree, my lady,” Pistorius replied.
Nel also said that the position of Steenkamp’s jeans, which were found inside out on the bathroom floor, suggested she had removed them quickly during an argument.
“That makes no sense,” Pistorius replied. “Why would she get changed into my clothes to leave my house?”
The prosecutor also asked why Pistorius said in his original bail hearing that he opened fire out of fear after hearing a "movement" in the toilet cubicle. Nel said the choice of word suggested the athlete had heard a person behind the closed toilet door.
Since the bail statement, Pistorius has said he fired after hearing a "wood abrasion" sound that he interpreted as a possible intruder opening the toilet door to attack him. Nel said the athlete was "tailoring" his evidence.
"You armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her"
As he drew his cross-examination to a close, Nel launched into a ferocious attack on Pistorius’ character, asking the athlete: “Who should we blame for you having shot her?”
“I’m not sure,” Pistorius replied.
“Who should we then blame? We should blame somebody or something?"
“I’m not sure.”
“Should we blame Reeva? She never told you she was going to the toilet, do we blame her?” Nel continued, incredulously. “Should we blame the government? You must be blaming somebody.”
“I believed there was a threat,” Pistorius replied.
Nel continued that Pistorius’ version of events was “not only untruthful but it’s so improbable that it cannot reasonable.”
“I cannot agree,” Pistorius said.
“You armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her,” Nel said.
“That’s not true," he athlete replied.
Outside court Tuesday, protesters called for the restoration of the death penalty in South Africa – in contrast to scenes on Monday when a well-wisher greeted Pistorius with a handful of balloons.
On Wednesday, the judge will rule on whether the trial would take a break from the end of this week until May 5 to deal with work commitments and "personal arrangements" made by prosecution and defense lawyers.
The trial continues.
First published April 15 2014, 1:49 AM