Wednesday 22 October 2014

Pistorius 'lying' on restaurant gun

Published 10/04/2014 | 08:57

Oscar Pistorius at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: (AP)

Oscar Pistorius' credibility was consistently questioned at his murder trial today as the chief prosecutor argued that the star athlete had a string of unlikely excuses why he wasn't to blame in the three gun charges he faces on top of murder for the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, in cross-examining Pistorius for a second day, questioned his honesty, which goes to the heart of the case, saying that the double-amputee Olympian wouldn't "accept responsibility for anything" and reacted incredulously to Pistorius' explanation of why a gun he was handling fired under a table in a packed restaurant.

Pistorius said the gun, a Glock pistol, went off while he was holding it but insisted it happened without him pulling the trigger.

The incident happened just weeks before model Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead by Pistorius on February 14, 2013. A police expert said earlier at the trial that the gun couldn't be fired without the trigger being pulled.

Mr Nel said: "We have you in possession of the gun, a shot went off, but you didn't discharge the gun? ... I'm putting it to you, you fired that gun. There is no other way. You are lying."

"I respect Mr Nel's comment," Pistorius replied, "but I didn't pull the trigger on that firearm."

Pistorius also said two witnesses, a former girlfriend and a friend, were both lying about an incident in 2012 when the runner is alleged to have fired his gun out the sunroof of a moving car.

Pistorius said he wasn't guilty of a fourth charge against him, illegal possession of ammunition for rounds of .38-calibre ammunition found in a safe in his home after the death of Ms Steenkamp. He said he was safekeeping the ammunition for his father.

But Mr Nel said Pistorius' father Henke "refused" to make a statement to police on the ammunition being his.

"You just don't want to accept responsibility for anything," he told Pistorius. Pistorius' answers to the accusations were short denials.

By attacking Pistorius' credibility on the other three charges, Mr Nel was pushing the prosecution's argument that Pistorius is also lying about killing his girlfriend by mistake in the pre-dawn hours.

Pistorius, 27, says Ms Steenkamp's death was a terrible accident after he mistook her for an intruder and fired four times with his licensed 9 mm pistol through a toilet door and into a cubicle. Prosecutors say he intended to kill the 29-year-old after a loud argument heard by witnesses and charged him with premeditated murder - for which he faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Pistorius insisted again today, the second day of his cross-examination by Mr Nel - that the shooting was an accident and he did not intentionally fire four shots.

"I didn't have time to think about if I wanted to or didn't want to," Pistorius said.

Mr Nel also accused him of egotistical behaviour in his relationship with Ms Steenkamp, and described Pistorius' courtroom apology to his girlfriend's family on Monday as an insincere "spectacle" that ignored the feelings of her relatives. Ms Steenkamp's mother, June, has attended court sessions this week.

"Your life is just about you," Mr Nel told Pistorius, claiming he wasn't "humble enough" to apologise in private to the family and away from the media glare of his murder trial, which is being broadcast live around the world.

"That's not true," Pistorius replied.

Pistorius said his lawyers had been in touch with representatives of Ms Steenkamp's family, and that he had believed the family of his girlfriend was not ready to meet him.

"I completely understand where they're coming from," he said. "It's not that I haven't thought about them."

Mr Nel said Pistorius was sometimes mean to Ms Steenkamp, pressing him about her objection to him playing a song by American rapper Kendrick Lamar on a car stereo. Pistorius referred to the song in a mobile phone message to ms Steenkamp that acknowledged her objections and has been included as evidence in the trial.

The prosecutor asked if the name of the song was Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe, but Pistorius said he couldn't remember the specific song. Mr Nel responded that Ms Steenkamp would have been right to take offence, but "we can't ask her."

A phone message from Ms Steenkamp to Pistorius that was shown in court includes the line: "You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other bitch you may know trying to kill your vibe."

Two contrasting images of the double-amputee runner have emerged in court: the defence-led image of Pistorius as a contrite man who had been worried about crime and made a terrible mistake on the night he killed Ms Steenkamp, and the prosecution's depiction of him as an overbearing egotist who was obsessed with firearms.

On the relationship, Mr Nel said he had checked all of Ms Steenkamp's text messages on her phone and the phrase "I love you" appeared only twice in those missives. On both occasions, he said, they were written by Ms Steenkamp to her mother.

"Never to you and you never to her," Mr Nel said, addressing Pistorius.

"I never got the opportunity to tell Reeva that I loved her," Pistorius said in a soft voice. He did not look at Mr Nel while replying to the prosecutor's questions, instead directing his gaze to Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will deliver a verdict because there is no jury system in South Africa.

Press Association

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