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Friday 22 August 2014

You just turn on the tears, lawyer accuses Pistorius

Aislinn Laing in Pretoria

Published 15/04/2014 | 02:30

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Oscar Pistorius is hugged by a supporter as he arrives ahead of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Photo: Reuters
Oscar Pistorius is hugged by a supporter as he arrives ahead of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Photo: Reuters
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (R) is hugged by a supporter as he arrives ahead of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 14, 2014. Pistorius is on trial for murdering Steenkamp at his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year. He says he mistook her for an intruder. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS)
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (R) is hugged by a supporter as he arrives ahead of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 14, 2014. Pistorius is on trial for murdering Steenkamp at his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year. He says he mistook her for an intruder. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS)
he bullet-ridden door is presented as evidence in the case.

Oscar Pistorius was accused yesterday of conveniently crying whenever he was under tough questioning over the circumstances in which he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

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Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, suggested that the athlete was trying to "hide" the real version of how he came to shoot the 29-year-old model through his locked lavatory door by becoming tearful when inconsistencies and improbabilities that tarnished his case were pointed out.

"When I said you wanted to shoot Reeva, you didn't burst into tears, you just said 'no'," Mr Nel said. "I indicated to you how your defence came unstuck. That caused the emotion."

He challenged the Paralympic champion to explain the "improbability" of him running around his house with his gun still cocked in his hand as he shouted for help from the balcony and put on his prosthetic legs, as he suggested in his evidence. Pistorius started to cry as he told the prosecutor: "I wasn't thinking."

"You're not using your emotional state as an escape, are you?" Mr Nel asked him.

In a day that was widely seen as the greatest challenge to the athlete's account since taking to the witness box last Monday, Pistorius broke down in tears several times, prompting the judge to call for two separate adjournments, or 'tear breaks', as they have become known.

Barry Roux, his barrister, complained to Judge Thokozile Masipa that Mr Nel was deliberately going over sensitive ground already covered in an attempt to make his client cry and cause delays.

Mr Nel responded that he believed there was a "different view" as to why Pistorius was continuously breaking down.

The judge rejected Mr Roux's complaint.

The athlete was asked what he shouted at the intruder. Pistorius paused, before shouting in a high-pitched voice: "Get the f*** out of my house! Get the f*** out of my house!"

The judge called an adjournment as the athlete burst into noisy sobs again.

After the break, Mr Nel suggested to Pistorius the reason why he had become emotional.

"Isn't it because that's exactly what you shouted at Reeva?" he asked.

The 27-year-old athlete rejected the suggestion, saying: "By repeating those words, it reminded me of the night."

Mr Nel pressed Pistorius on whether he intended to shoot the suspected intruder. Pistorius has previously told the court that he was frightened, imagined that there was an intruder and armed himself to protect his own and his girlfriend's life.

He has also said that he fired "accidentally" after hearing a noise from behind the locked lavatory door.

"I was terrified. I didn't have time to think," Pistorius replied.

"I thought someone was coming out to attack me."

"You fired at Reeva," Mr Nel told him. "That's not true," the athlete said weeping.

"Why are you getting emotional now?" Mr Nel asked him.

"I did not fire at Reeva!" Pistorius howled, prompting the judge to call another adjournment.

After the break, Mr Nel told Pistorius that he was relying on two different defences: "putative self-defence", that he fired at a perceived intruder intentionally, and "involuntary action", that he shot without intention as a reflex.

Mr Nel said that once again, Pistorius grew upset when he realised the "implications" of "getting your defences mixed up". The athlete denied the charge.

Earlier, the former athlete was greeted with cheers from a group of fans as he returned to the witness stand to give evidence.

"We support him as a human being, and we are here because we just want to let him know that he is not alone in this whole matter," supporter Ronel Du Toit said.

"There are people who do believe in his innocence – that it was a mistake and also to show sympathy to the Steenkamps."

Another female fan, Rika Bothma, said she was disappointed by the media coverage of the murder trial because it was "negative" towards the athlete, and she was saddened to see "how people have turned their back" on Pistorius, once a national hero in South Africa.

They applauded as he entered the North Gauteng High Court followed by his sister, Aimee Pistorius. In a bizarre scene, one of his fans grabbed his hand while another planted a kiss on his cheek. The athlete later stopped to sign an autograph thanking a fan for her support and love as he left court.

He was driven away in his silver Land Rover, his face held visibly in his hands behind the frosted glass after the dramatic cross-examination session in which Mr Nel accused him of lying and tailoring his evidence to fit his version of events in the run-up to Ms Steenkamp's death.

The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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