Friday 15 December 2017

Prosecutor accuses Pistorius of 'tailoring evidence' again

Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, April 11, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, April 11, 2014. Pistorius is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel during cross questioning of Oscar Pistorius, in court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: AP Photo/Marco Longari, Pool

Reeva Steenkamp wanted to leave Oscar Pistorius's house when the couple got into an argument and the athlete shot her dead, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel told his murder trial.

"Why would she leave her jeans on the floor if everything else is in her overnight bag?," he told Pretoria's High Court.

"She wanted to leave, and you weren't sleeping, you were both awake and there was an argument."

The prosecutor continued to pick holes in his version of events arguing Ms Steenkamp ate her last meal two hours before she was shot dead in the early hours of 14 February.

"That is, as far as your case is concerned, devastating for your version that eight hours after she was killed, there was still that amount of food in her stomach," he told the court.

"I put it to you that she must have eaten within two hours of her death".

Returning to the witness box after three dramatic days of cross-examination, Pistorius said he "did not have an explanation" for it and insisted the couple had dinner together at around 7pm, before adding: "I think it is improbable that she ate after that."

Mr Nel fired back: "It's not improbable, it's impossible, because it would have triggered the alarm. This particular point, I put to you, is devastating for your version because it's an objective set of facts. It cannot fit into your version of events."

The court was also shown blood spatter on the floor of Pistorius's bedroom, and on the duvet on the floor, which he claims had been on the bed, and police officers moved it.

On the blue light on Pistorius's amplifier, which the athlete claims he had been about to cover with Ms Steenkamp's jeans, it was put to him that the amplifier has many lights when switched on.

"You have to create time, in your version," Nel said. "You have to build a time gap for Reeva to get to the bathroom. That's why you invented the blue light."

"I’m not trying to create time," Pistorius said. “The state is trying to create time in its case. [Ex-girlfriend and state witness] Samantha Taylor said it takes four minutes for me to put my legs on. I did it in court. It takes 30 seconds.”

Later in his evidence, Pistorius broke down in tears as he told the court he screamed at perceived intruders to "Get the fuck out of my house!" before shooting Ms Steenkamp dead, prompting Judge Masipa to adjourn the session so that he could compose himself.

Pistorius's story has come under intense scrutiny from Mr Nel, who accused the athlete of lying and tailoring his version of events.

The court temporarily adjourned late in the morning after the double-amputee runner started to sob while testifying about the moments before he killed Ms Steenkamp in his home in the early hours of February 14, 2013.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel had asked him what exactly he shouted as he moved towards the bathroom where he shot Ms Steenkamp, who was behind a closed door in the toilet cubicle.

Pistorius said he thought there was an intruder in the house. After a long pause after the question, he said he screamed, using an expletive, for the purported intruder to get out of his house.

As he gave evidence, Pistorius began to wail and Judge Thokozile Masipa called an adjournment. Just over an hour later and after court resumed, Pistorius again broke down when replying to a question on why he had opened fire, causing a second adjournment.

The prosecution has said Pistorius's account of a mistaken shooting is a lie. Mr Nel opened the fourth day of cross-examination by alleging that Pistorius had "concocted" his account of the shooting.

"You're tailoring your version as you're sitting there," Mr Nel said. Later, he accused Pistorius of being a stickler for detail on some matters, in contrast to his frequent statements in court that he could not remember aspects of his evidence.

Mr Nel noted that Pistorius earlier said he warned Ms Steenkamp to call police about an intruder in a whisper, contradicting later evidence that he spoke in a "low tone" and the prosecutor also said blood spatter evidence indicated that the athlete's statement about the location of a duvet in the bedroom was false.

Pistorius has said the duvet was on the bed, and that police photographs of the bed cover on the floor suggest that police moved it there after the shooting.

Mr Nel said a pattern of blood drops on the duvet and on the carpet nearby show that it was on the floor before police arrived, and that its location amounts to evidence that the couple had been having an argument.

The prosecutor also alleged that Ms Steenkamp was in the process of getting dressed in the midst of the night-time argument and wanted to leave Pistorius's house shortly before the shooting. A pair of jeans strewn on the bedroom floor showed Ms Steenkamp was putting them on, Mr Nel said, and contrasted with her character as a neat person who would not leave clothes lying around.

Pistorius responded that Ms Steenkamp was neat, but he said the jeans were inside out and therefore showed that Ms Steenkamp had not been in the process of donning them.

Mr Nel also questioned why the athlete did not give fuller details of his account in his bail statement last February, days after he killed Ms Steenkamp. Pistorius had said then that there was a noise from the bathroom that caused him to think that people had broken into his house, but did not explain until later that it was the bathroom window sliding across and slamming against the frame.

The athlete said on Monday that he was on medication and traumatised while in a jail cell at the time of his bail statement, which could account for any discrepancies with his later evidence.

Mr Nel also said it was improbable that, in Pistorius's story, Ms Steenkamp did not ask him why he was getting out of bed in the middle of the night to retrieve fans from the edge of the balcony.

The state argues the 29-year old model and law graduate "ran screaming" to the bathroom after the couple had an "argument" before the athlete shot her three times.

Pistorius denies murdering Ms Steenkamp, claiming he shot and killed her in a case of mistaken identity thinking she was an intruder after he heard the noise of a "window sliding open" and a door slamming, which convinced him someone had entered his gated community mansion in Pretoria.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa and Pistorius's fate will ultimately be decided by Judge Masipa, assisted by two assessors.

The case continues.

The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has accused him of tailoring his version of how he killed his girlfriend to fit evidence at the scene, exhaustively listing alleged inconsistencies in the athlete's account of the fatal shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

Press Association

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