Pistorius: I heard no Reeva screams
11 April 2014
Last updated at 19:04
Oscar Pistorius has told his murder trial that girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp did not scream or shout as he grabbed a gun and fired shots that killed her.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said it was “improbable” that she would stand in the bathroom saying nothing while Mr Pistorius was just 3m (10ft) away shouting at her to call the police.
Mr Pistorius said he could not explain why she had not shouted out.
The athlete, 27, denies murder saying the killing was a terrible accident.
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Oscar Pistorius has been on the stand for an entire week – but the back and forth of cross-examination is where testimony is tested and concessions are made.
“What would a reasonable person do?” This was one of prosecutor Gerrie Nel’s questions. The answer could be the difference between negligence and intent – although we’re not quite there yet.
As he was preparing to wrap up for the day, Mr Nel accused the athlete of creating a version of events that did not happen. “She had nothing to be scared of except you,” Mr Nel charged, but the accused denied this.
The prosecutor pointed out that Mr Pistorius was making “mistakes”, a point the judge also noted. The court would not accept his explanation that the mistakes were a result of him being tired.
The state has alleged that the pair had an argument in the bedroom and she ran away from him. We don’t have any indication of how the state plans to prove this. Neighbours have testified to hearing “loud voices”.
He admits killing Ms Steenkamp but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder.
He believed she had been in bed when he grabbed his gun, made his way to the bathroom and fired shots through the door.
The prosecution says he deliberately killed her after an argument.
On the third day of his cross-examination, Mr Nel pressed the South African Olympic sprinter to explain the final moments leading up to the shooting.
He asked why he had not checked whether Ms Steenkamp had heard his calls for her to phone the police, or why he had not taken her to safety instead of going to confront the supposed intruder.
Mr Pistorius said it was his personality to confront what he believed was an intruder.
The trial has been adjourned until Monday morning.
‘She was scared of you’
Later, Mr Nel questioned Mr Pistorius’s account that he had not heard Ms Steenkamp shout or scream during the whole incident.
“When you shouted at Reeva to phone the police, she was 3m away from you in the toilet, but she didn’t say anything,” he said. “Why would she not say anything?”
Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, has said Mr Pistorius tried to say sorry to the family privately
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began the day asking Mr Pistorius about his alarm system at home
Mr Pistorius said he did not know.
The prosecutor accused the athlete of lying, and said he had shot Ms Steenkamp while she was talking to him from the bathroom.
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Gerrie Nel: Fierce prosecutor
- One of South Africa’s most prominent lawyers
- More than 30 years’ experience
- Prosecuted former police boss Jackie Selebi on corruption charges, calling him an “arrogant liar” during cross-examination
“She wasn’t scared of an intruder,” he said. “She was scared of you.”
He went on: “Are you sure that Reeva did not scream after the first shot?”
Mr Pistorius took a long time to answer, and broke down into sobs.
“At no point did Reeva shout out or scream,” he said.
Mr Nel then disputed his claim, saying he would not have been able to hear if he had just fired his gun.
Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream, but the defence disputes their testimony.
‘Fixated’ on intruder
At one point the judge admonished Mr Nel, telling him not to call a witness a “liar” while he was giving evidence.
The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani, at court in the capital, Pretoria, explains that lawyers can say witnesses are lying but not call them liars.
Mr Pistorius told the court he had heard a window opening and closing, and had immediately got out of bed and grabbed his gun.
“I told Reeva to get down and phone the police,” he said.
Mr Nel asked if he had not looked at Ms Steenkamp, or asked if she had heard the noise.
“My whole being was fixated on this person that I thought was in the bathroom,” Mr Pistorius said.
Before the cross-examination resumed on Friday, Mr Nel confirmed that Mr Pistorius had asked to meet Ms Steenkamp’s family to apologise for killing her.
The double amputee faces life imprisonment if convicted of murdering the 29-year-old model.
If he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive up to 15 years in prison.
Mr Pistorius also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.
There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.
Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.
He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.
2. Bathroom window
Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.
“Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans,” he said.
Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.
Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.
Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.
He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.
Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.
A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.
Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.
Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.
5. Toilet door
Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.
Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.
6. Emergency calls
Mr Pistorius’s defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.
A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.
A minute later he received an incoming call – estate security calling him back.
According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.
April 14th, 2014