Oscar Pistorius’s credibility was called into question at his murder trial yesterday as the chief prosecutor argued that the star athlete had a string of unlikely excuses for why he was not to blame in the three gun charges he faces on top of the murder charge for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Cross-examining Pistorius for a second day, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he doubted the Olympian’s honesty.
Mr Nel asserted that the double-amputee runner would not “accept responsibility for anything” and reacted incredulously to Pistorius’s explanation of why a gun he was handling went off under a table in a packed restaurant, for which he was charged with firing a gun in public without good reason.
Pistorius said a friend’s pistol, a Glock, went off while he was holding it but insisted that he hadn’t pulled the trigger.
The incident happened just weeks before model Ms Steenkamp, 29, was shot to death by Pistorius on 14 February, 2013. A police expert testified earlier at the trial that the Glock could not be fired without the trigger being pulled.
Mr Nel said: “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 in which he is alleged to have fired his gun out of the sunroof of a moving car.
Pistorius said he was not guilty of yet another charge against him, illegal possession of ammunition found in a safe in his home after he killed Ms Steenkamp. Pistorius said his father had put the bullets into the safe and that they belonged to his father. But Mr Nel said Pistorius’s father, Henke, had “refused” to make a statement to police on the ammunition being his. “You just don’t want to accept responsibility for anything,” Mr Nel said to Pistorius. The athlete’s answers to the accusations were short denials.
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 9mm pistol through a bathroom door and into a cubicle.
Pistorius insisted again yesterday that the shooting was an accident. It was his fourth day in the witness stand, the first two days having been spent being questioned by his own attorney, Barry Roux.
Mr Nel also accused him of egotistical behaviour in his relationship with Ms Steenkamp, and described his courtroom apology to his girlfriend’s family on Monday as an insincere “spectacle” that ignored the feelings of her relatives.
“Your life is just about you,” Mr Nel said to Pistorius, claiming he was not “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. He 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.
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, June. “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 on the dais.
Ms Masipa will deliver a verdict because there is no jury system in South Africa.