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Sunday 21 September 2014

Pistorius lied again and again, trial told in closing argument

Natasha Imray

Published 08/08/2014 | 02:30

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Oscar Pistorius reacting as he listened to state prosecutor summarise his evidence, during his court case, in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Reeva Steenkamp

The chief prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius's murder trial said yesterday in closing arguments that the athlete repeatedly lied during testimony in a crude attempt to defend against a murder charge for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

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Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cited flaws in the defence, saying the Olympian's legal team floated more than one theory about what happened on the night Pistorius shot Steenkamp through a closed toilet door in his home.

Defence lawyers had argued that Pistorius fired in self-defence, fearing an intruder, Nel said, but they also raised the possibility he was not criminally responsible and accidentally shot because he was "startled".

"It's two defences that you can never reconcile," Nel said, as Pistorius sat behind him in the dock, occasionally flicking through documents.

The double-amputee athlete appeared calm, in contrast to some past occasions during which he retched and wailed.

The prosecution has argued that Pistorius intentionally shot Steenkamp before dawn on February 14, 2013, after a quarrel, and argued he knew she was in the bathroom.

Nel ended his closing argument by saying Pistorius was guilty of murder because he then "made up his mind" to find his gun, walk through to the bathroom and shoot.

"That, my lady, is pre-planning," Nel said to the judge.

Yet Nel said Pistorius should still be convicted of murder even if the court accepts he did not know it was Steenkamp in the toilet cubicle, arguing he intentionally shot at and killed a person with no reason to believe his life was under threat.

Barry Roux, the chief defence lawyer, listened and checked files as Nel spoke for hours. Nel was occasionally questioned by Judge Thokozile Masipa and urged to speed up elaborations on written arguments of more than 100 pages that were submitted to the court last week.

Roux began his final arguments before Masipa postponed proceedings until today for the defence to finish. Masipa will then adjourn the trial to deliberate with two legal assistants on a verdict, with Pistorius facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the main charge of premeditated murder.

Roux noted that some of the evidence at the scene, which Nel referred to, had been moved around by investigators.

"We're not talking about a conspiracy," Roux said, calling it unintentional tampering. Roux also noted that the former chief investigating officer had acknowledged mistakes in police procedure but was not called by the state as a trial witness.

Irish Independent

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