Monday 23 April 2018

Prosecutor tells Pistorius: take responsibility for killing Reeva

Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa
Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa
Reeva Steenkamp's mother Jane is comforted by relative after a photo of her dead daughter was shown on screen during the trial of Oscar Pistorius

Aislinn Laing in Pretoria

Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius trial, launched a fierce attack on the athlete as he began cross-examination, challenging him to "accept responsibility" as a "sports hero" and admit he killed Reeva Steenkamp.

"You still are one of the most recognised faces in the world ... a model for both disabled and able-bodied sportsmen," Mr Nel barked at the startled sprinter.

"Before you killed Reeva, people looked up to you and now you have a responsibility to tell the truth and you will not?"

Mr Pistorius stuttered that he made a "terrible mistake".

"You killed her! You shot and killed her! Won't you take responsibility for that?" Mr Nel fired back.

HORROR

Moments later, Mr Nel gave instructions for a graphic close-up picture of Ms Steenkamp's head, her skin yellowing, the bullet injury clearly visible and her hair matted with blood to be put up on big screens around the court, including next to the witness box.

Amid audible intakes of breath around the court yesterday and angry exclamations from his family, Mr Pistorius recoiled in horror and shielded his eyes.

"Her head exploded," Mr Nel said grimly. "I know that you don't want to look at it because you don't want to take responsibility."

"I have been waiting for my time on this stand to tell my story," the athlete wept.

"I remember. I don't have to look at a picture where I am tormented by what I saw. I touched her head. I was there!"

Behind him in the public gallery, Ms Steenkamp's mother June looked at the floor.

Prosecutors confirmed later that she had been warned they would show the picture.

"She wanted him to see it, to face it," one said.

They were the first salvoes in what is expected to be several days of tough cross-examination of Mr Pistorius (27) by the seasoned state prosecutor, who has a corrupt former national police commissioner among his other legal scalps.

The athlete faces a charge of premeditated murder, along with three other firearms charges. The state says he killed Ms Steenkamp deliberately after a row.

Mr Pistorius insists he thought she was an intruder. Asked by his barrister, Barry Roux, if he intended to kill Ms Steenkamp, he responded: "I did not intend to kill Reeva, my lady, or anyone else."

On Tuesday, Mr Pistorius suffered a near-breakdown in the witness box as he described – for the first time – how he woke to hear a noise in the night and, thinking Ms Steenkamp was still in bed, fired four times through the locked bathroom door.

His family revealed later that it had been the first time he had managed to give a full account of what happened that night to either them or his legal team.

Previously, they said, he had always stopped before reaching the moment of the shooting.

Mr Pistorius told how on discovering Ms Steenkamp in the lavatory, he tried to pick her up and felt her blood run down his back.

"I could see her arm was broken. I was on my knees and pulling her into the bathroom. I put her down softly on the carpet," he said.

He said he tried to call for help from her phone but it had a pass code that blocked access. He then he went to get his phone and called first the estate manager, then a private ambulance service.

He said he tried to move Ms Steenkamp downstairs but added: "I struggled to pick Reeva up but I couldn't pick her up. I was scared I would hurt her more.

"I didn't really know what to do. I could see that she was struggling to breathe."

He described the arrival first of the estate manager, then ambulance personnel and the police.

"Mr Stander told me to put Reeva down, the ambulance was on the way.

"I remember screaming that we needed to get her to hospital," he said. The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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