Oscar Pistorius: five questions for Judge Masipa

 Oscar Pistorius

The judge will need to decide if Oscar Pistorius’s story is feasible and whether he acted reasonably

LAST UPDATED AT 13:37 ON Wed 23 Apr 2014

AS the Oscar Pistorius trial takes a two-week break, Judge Thokozile Masipa is likely to reflect on what she had heard over the last seven weeks. The prosecution has called all of its witnesses and Pistorius has spent seven days in the witness stand. The defence still has more than a dozen witnesses to call before Judge Masipa will have to decide whether Pistorius deliberately murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

Here are five questions she will have to take into consideration:

Has Pistorius ‘tailored’ his testimony?

The prosecution has accused Pistorius of “tailoring” his evidence, although the athlete argued that these were genuine mistakes. For example, in his bail statement, Pistorius said he “went onto the balcony” to retrieve a fan but in court he said he did not go fully out onto the balcony. He initially said he “whispered” to Steenkamp to get down and call the police, but later denied whispering and said he spoke in a “low tone”. The judge will have to decide if these are reasonable mistakes to make or whether, as prosecutor Gerrie Nel argues, Pistorius was “thinking of something that never happened” and struggling to “keep up with an untruth”.

Is Pistorius’s version of events even possible?

The athlete struggled to explain why some parts of his testimony contradicted the state’s evidence. Pathologist Gert Saayman said Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death, around the time a neighbour heard an argument at the house. Pistorius, who claimed they were both asleep at that time, admitted: “I don't have an explanation for it.” The judge will have to decide if it is possible that Steenkamp got out of bed and went to the toilet without Pistorius hearing or seeing her go, while Nel says the most "improbable" part of the athlete’s story is that Steenkamp never uttered a word from the toilet before she was shot.

How reliable is the police evidence?

The prosecution has used police crime scene photographs to suggest that Pistorius’s story is a lie. If his duvet was on the bedroom floor, as it is in one photograph, the athlete would struggle to convince the court he thought Steenkamp was in bed. The prosecution claims he could not have later ran out onto the balcony for help as there is a fan in the way and that the curtains are open in his room, despite Pistorius claiming he had closed them before he heard a noise in the bathroom. However, the defence has proven that the police moved items around in the house that night and Pistorius insists that his bedroom was not how he left it.

Is Pistorius's emotional state an act?

The Paralympian has wept, retched and held his head in his hands for much of the trial, causing the court to adjourn on more than one occasion. Asked by the prosecution why he was being so emotional, he said he was “traumatised” by the night when he lost the person that he cared about. Others have accused him of playing up his distress, and one journalist has accused him of having been coached by a professional actor. Jani Allen, a British-born journalist wrote an open letter to the athlete in which she said: "I have it from a reliable source that you are taking acting lessons for your days in court." She gave no specific details and a spokeswoman for the Pistorious family dismissed the claims as fictitious. Masipa will have to consider Nel’s accusation that the athlete was using his emotions to dodge difficult questions during the cross-examination, although the judge herself pointed out: “He has been emotional throughout.”

If Pistorius believed Steenkamp was an intruder, did he act reasonably?

Even if the judge believes that Pistorius thought Steenkamp was an intruder, he could still face a murder conviction. Pistorius insists that he fired the gun “without thinking” but the state’s ballistics evidence suggests there was a pause in between some of the shots. Pistorius initially told the court he had “aimed” at the bathroom door, but later said he did not. The judge will have to decide if Pistorius: planned to kill before firing the gun, which could amount to premeditated murder; intended to kill as he fired the shots, which could amount to murder; or whether he acted negligently, which could amount to culpable homicide.

Oscar Pistorius: family denies athlete took acting lessons

23 April

THE family of Oscar Pistorius has denied that the Paralympian received acting training before giving evidence at his murder trial, where he has denied deliberately killing his girlfriend Reeva Steencamp.

Pistorius has broken down several times during the course of the trial and proceedings have been halted at key moments.

The athlete denies the charge of murder, saying that he believed an intruder had broken into his home when he shot Steenkamp dead through a locked toilet door.

Pistorius vomited when photos of Steencamp's body were shown in court, and several sessions were disrupted due to the athlete's distress. But now some have "questioned his sincerity", reports the Daily Telegraph.

In an open letter to the athlete, South African columnist Jani Allan said that she had been told by "a reliable source" that Pistorius received acting training ahead of his testimony.

A spokeswoman for the Pistorius family said in a statement that the claims were "devoid of the truth".

"We deny that our client has undergone any 'acting lessons' or any form of emotional coaching," said Anneliese Burgess, media manager for the Pistorius family.

"This type of comment makes a mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family," the statement adds.

The trial has been adjourned until 5 May. Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux is expected to call between 14 and 17 witnesses.



Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva 'had no time to scream'

17 April

THE defence witness who said Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp four times in quick succession was accused of being unqualified to offer an opinion during the athlete’s murder trial in Pretoria today.

Roger Dixon, a forensics specialist, had contradicted a police ballistics expert who said last week that Pistorius paused between firing the first and second shots.

The dispute is significant because the prosecution claims that Steenkamp screamed out between shots and that Pistorius therefore knew he was firing at her. The athlete denies deliberately killing his girlfriend, saying he believed an intruder had broken into his bathroom.

“Mr Dixon's testimony challenges the state's version that Ms Steenkamp would have had time to scream after the first bullet and that Mr Pistorius then changed aim and continued firing,” the BBC said.

“Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream followed by gun shots, but the defence disputes their testimony, saying the only scream came from Mr Pistorius – after he had fired.”

In response, prosecutor Gerrie Nel repeatedly questioned Dixon’s credentials as an expert witness.

“In cross-examination, Mr Dixon admitted he did not have sufficient expertise in some areas in which he was testifying, including ballistics, blood spatter, sound and visibility tests,” the Independent reports.

"You see how irresponsible it is to make inferences in areas where you’re not an expert," Nel told him. "It’s irresponsible, am I right?"

The trial has now been adjourned until May 5. 

Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva 'had no time to scream' 

16 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS cowered in the dock today as a forensic expert described the gunshot injury to Reeva Steenkamp's arm as "an instant amputation".

After five days of gruelling cross-examination, Pistorius stood down from the witness box yesterday. His defence team is now calling witnesses to cast doubt on the prosecution's claim that Pistorius deliberately murdered his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year. The state claims Steenkamp "ran screaming" to the bathroom and locked herself inside the toilet following a fight with Pistorius, but the Paralympian insists he mistook his girlfriend for a dangerous intruder.

Roger Dixon, a former police officer and forensic geologist, is the third witness to testify for the defence.

Today Dixon told the court he believed Steenkamp was standing close to the toilet door at an angle, with her arm reaching for the door handle, suggesting she may have been in the process of opening it. The prosecution claims she was fully facing the door.

Dixon also said Pistorius fired four shots in "rapid succession", which contradicts the prosecution's claim that there was a short break between the first and second shots.

The first two shots struck her in the hip and arm in quick succession, he said. The first delivering an "incapacitating blow", said Dixon, and the bullet that hit her in the arm would have been similar to "an instant amputation". Pistorius held his head in his hands for the graphic description, reports The Independent. 

The court has previously heard that the bullet – black talon ammunition designed to open up on impact with human tissue – shattered Steenkamp's upper right arm and she would not have been able to use it if she had survived.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel repeatedly questioned Dixon's integrity as an expert witness and accused him of being "evasive".

Dixon, currently employed at the University of Pretoria's geology department, conceded he is not a ballistic expert and is not affiliated to a forensic body.

Proceedings will adjourn for two weeks on Thursday and resume on 5 May following a request from the prosecution. Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux is expected to call between 14 and 17 witnesses.

Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva 'in rush to leave after argument'

15 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS was today accused of arming himself with the “sole purpose” of killing Reeva Steenkamp as she spoke to him from the locked toilet cubicle. The claims were made by prosecutor Gerrie Nel as he summed up his cross-examination.

The athlete has now stepped down from the witness box after five days of tough questioning. Nel, nicknamed 'The Pit Bull', this morning claimed Steenkamp was in a rush to leave the house after the couple argued on 14 February last year. Pistorius denied the accusation, insisting that he mistook her for a dangerous intruder when he fired four shots into the toilet door. The Paralympian also revealed the contents of a Valentine’s Day card written by Steenkamp before she died.

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

2.00pm: Roger Dixon, a forensic geologist, has spent the afternoon giving evidence, some of which contradicts that put forward by the prosecution.

  • Dixon tells the judge that he visited Pistorius’s bedroom and confirms that with the lights off he “could not see anything at all” even his hand in front of his face. The toilet light was not working, he says, and the blue LED light on the athlete's amplifier was too weak to illuminate anything.
  • The forensics expert says that fibres found on the toilet door are consistent with Pistorius's socks, supporting the athlete’s claim that he attempted to kick the door down with his prostheses. The prosecution claimed Pistorius was on his stumps at this point. Dixon also points out that other marks on the door suggest the police walked on the door when it was taken down to be examined.
  • Dixon suggests the vertical bruises on Steenkamp’s back were caused by bullet ricochet, not from the magazine rack in the toilet, which contradicts the evidence of Captain Chris Mangena, the prosecution's ballistics expert.

10.50am: Roux asks Pistorius to read the Valentine’s Day card he received from Reeva on the night she was killed. The envelope says “Ozzy” with hearts on it. The outside of the card says “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Inside it says: “I think today's a good day to tell you that I love you.” Roux finishes his re-examination.

The judge and her assessors ask a few more questions. Pistorius confirms that his toilet light was not working and that Steenkamp had access to his alarm controls. He then steps down as a witness.

10.40am: Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux has begun his re-examination. He asks Pistorius what he means when he talks about an “accident”? Pistorius says: “I meant the situation as a whole. It wasn't meant to be.” Roux asks him if he “consciously” pulled the trigger. Pistorius says no.

The athlete is again asked to describe the emotions he felt before he fired the gun. “Terrified,” he says. “I feared for my life. I was scared, I was thinking about what could happen to me and to Reeva, I was just extremely fearful, overcome with a sense of terror and vulnerability.”

Roux shows the court a police photograph, taken shortly after the one showing Steenkamp’s jeans inside out on Pistorius’s bedroom floor. This one shows Steenkamp’s jeans no longer inside out. Pistorius also confirms that he did not have access to any witness statements, including police statements, before he gave his initial bail affivdavit.

9.55am: Nel sums up his cross-examination, telling Pistorius that his version is “not only untruthful, it is so improbable that it cannot be reasonably, probably true”. Nel says that based on the objective facts and the circumstantial evidence, the court will find - as an only reasonable inference - that:

  • Reeva ate two hours before Pistorius shot and killed her.
  • While Reeva was awake and eating, neighbour Estelle van der Merwe heard an argument.
  • Four other neighbours heard Reeva’s "bloodcurdling" screams as she escaped from Pistorius.
  • Pistorius shot four shots through the toilet door, knowing that Reeva was in there.
  • Pistorius knew that she was talking to him. She was locked in the toilet and he armed himself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her.
  • Afterwards, Pistorius was overcome by what he had done because he intended to kill her.
Pistorius denied all of the accusations, except that he was "overcome" by what he had done, but not because he had intended to kill her.

9.50am: The prosecution repeatedly asks Pistorius who should be blamed for him having shot Reeva. The athlete says he believed there was a threat on his life, but says he does not blame anyone. Nel asks: “Who should we blame for the black talon rounds that ripped through her body?” The judge objects that this is the same question and Nel subsequently changes the question to “Why did you have black talon ammunition?” Pistorius says: “It is the type of ammunition used for my firearm.”

9.30am: The prosecution turns to the phone call between Pistorius and security guard Pieter Baba after the shooting. Baba has previously told the court that he called Pistorius and was told “everything is fine”. However, the phone records showed that Pistorius first called Baba. Nel today suggests that Pistorius rang security by mistake and then told Baba “everything is fine” because he did not want security there. The Paralympian says he cannot remember speaking to him but this would not make sense as he had already called Johan Stander, who was involved in the administration of the estate, and medical assistance company Netcare to ask for help

9.10am: Nel shows the court a photograph of the toilet, including a large puddle of blood, taken by police just after the shooting. He asks Pistorius to explain exactly where Steenkamp was found. The athlete says Reeva was sitting on the floor to the right of the toilet (see below), where the magazine rack is in the picture, with her head on her shoulder.

Nel asks why Pistorius was screaming before he saw Steenkamp. “I was in a panic,” says the athlete. Then the prosecutor asks would he not have been in a “greater panic” when he saw her in the toilet. “I didn't know what the purpose of screaming would be,” says Pistorius. “I was overcome with sadness, I was crying.” He adds: “When I saw Reeva there, I was broken.” 

9.00am: Pistorius is asked to make a swinging movement with the cricket bat against the toilet door in court. Previously, the state witness Colonel Johannes Vermeulen said Pistorius must have been on his stumps when he used a cricket bat to break down the toilet door. Pistorius shows the court how he hit the door. The athlete tells the court: “I am wearing prosthetic legs and this position is very comfortable.”

8.50am: Nel claims that it makes no sense for somebody as neat as Reeva to leave her jeans inside out on the floor, when all her other things were packed in her bag. Pistorius says she was already in her pyjamas when he got home. Nel suggests that it indicates that she had to take her jeans off “quickly” because of an argument and that she wanted to leave. Pistorius says this makes “no sense”, as she would not have taken off her own clothes and put on his if she hypothetically wanted to leave the house.

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Oscar Pistorius scream: 'Get  the f*** out of my house'

14 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS claimed today that he screamed “Get the f*** out of my house” moments before he fired four shots through his toilet door. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has been chipping away at the athlete’s claim that he believed his girlfriend was a dangerous intruder when he shot four times through the closed toilet door on 14 February 2013.

Last week, Nel questioned why Pistorius would go towards danger rather than head for safety and why Steenkamp never once responded to his shouts and screams.

The prosecutor opened today’s proceedings with a promise to show the court that Pistorius was “tailoring his evidence”. He highlighted small differences between the athlete’s original bail affidavit, his evidence in chief and the testimony he has given under cross-examination. As Pistorius corrected Nel on a number of points, the prosecutor pointed out that the athlete was a “stickler for detail” and yet was being vague on many aspects of the case.

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

2.00pm: Nel asks why Pistorius did not check outside his bedroom when he was searching for Steenkamp after firing into the toilet door. Pistorius says this would have been a “strange” thing to do as it had already dawned on him that it may have been Steenkamp in the toilet.

“Why would you think it is Reeva?” asks Nel. “This is one of the crucial issues that makes your version totally improbable.” Nel suggests it was not "normal" for Pistorius to run back to the bathroom thinking he had shot Steenkamp while simultaneously believing there might be an intruder. Pistorius tells him: “Nothing was normal about that night.” The judge interrupts to say it is possible to think one thing and hope for another.

The prosecutor questions why Pistorius did not check for a ladder outside the bathroom window if he was still fearful of an intruder. When Pistorius says his “mind was on Reeva”, Nel accuses him of “adapting” his story as he goes. The prosecutor says it is implausible that Pistorius would run around the house with his gun still cocked. “I understand that it doesn't sound rational but I didn't have a rational state of mind,” says the athlete. Nel claims the gun was left in the bathroom after Pistorius “shot and killed Reeva”, but Pistorius insists: “That's incorrect.”

1.30pm: Nel again suggests that Steenkamp was talking to Pistorius when he shot her. If Reeva was scared of an intruder, why would she be standing, looking at the door, he asks. Pistorius says he does not know.

11.55am: Pistorius says he fired because he heard a “wood noise”, which he perceived to be the door opening. In retrospect, he says, it could have been the magazine rack moving. Nel says it was the sound of the magazine rack moving when Steenkamp fell down after the first shot. He suggests Pistorius heard this and then changed his aim, a version of events that would fit with the state's ballistics evidence. Pistorius denies the noise came after the first shot. 

11.05am: Nel focuses on the exact moment Pistorius fired his gun. The athlete again says he thought someone was coming out to attack him, he “did not have time to think” and was “terrified”. But the prosecutor questions if his defence is self-defence or involuntary action. “You are thinking every step of the way, but now in this critical instant, you didn't think?” asks Nel.

Pistorius denies firing to kill anybody and says he fired in the direction from where he thought the attack was happening. “You fired at Reeva,” says Nel. “That is not true,” says Pistorius, once more breaking down into tears. “I did not fire at Reeva.” The court adjourns again as the Paralympian begins coughing and retching.

10.45am: Nel is asking Pistorius why he is so emotional and suggests that he knowingly screamed "Get the f*** out of my house" to Steenkamp. The athlete denies this and tells the court again that he has been “traumatised” by the events in question and repeating the words reminded him of how he felt that night.

The prosecution says it “does not make sense” that Pistorius would first speak quietly to Reeva and then shout seconds later. Pistorius claims it was not until he was in the passage to the bathroom that he believed Steenkamp’s life would not be in danger if he shouted.

9.55am: Nel returns again to the moments just before the shooting. He asks Pistorius to describe what he was shouting. The athlete says he was shouting for the intruders to get out and for Reeva to call the police. When asked if he remembers exactly what he said, Pistorius says he does. “What did you shout?” asks Nel. There is a long pause, before he tells the court: “I screamed: ‘Get the f*** out of my house.’” His voice cracking and getting higher and higher, he repeats: “'Get the f*** out of my house.’” The court adjourns as Pistorius breaks down again.

9.30am: Nel again accuses Pistorius of “tailoring evidence”. He points out that the athlete initially said in his evidence in chief that he “whispered” to Steenkamp to get down and call the police when he first heard a noise in the bathroom. In cross-examination, he said this was not a “whisper” but a “low tone”. Pistorius says this was a mistake and denies tailoring his evidence.

9.20am: Nel points out blood splatter in a police photograph of Pistorius's bedroom. It is seen on the carpet and on the duvet that is seen on the floor. Pistorius has previously claimed the police must have taken the duvet off the bed and put it onto the floor. The athlete suggests that the blood spatter ended up on the duvet when it was on the bed. But Nel questions why it lines up with the blood spatter on the carpet. "Don't you want to admit that the duvet was on the floor?" asks Nel. Pistorius repeats that he does not remember the duvet being on the floor.

The prosecutor seizes the opportunity to question why Pistorius is now touching his eyes. The Paralympian tells the court that his eyes are sore. The judge interrupts to tell Nel that the defendent rubbed his eyes ten minutes ago and Nel drops the issue.

9.00am: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel begins today’s cross-examination by telling the court that Pistorius's version of events are “improbable” and “untrue”. He says that pathologist Gert Saayman’s evidence that Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death was "devastating" to Pistorius's case.

The Paralympian says it is a "possibility" but "highly improbable" that Steenkamp ate while he was asleep. Nel points out that the alarm would have been triggered if she had gone downstairs. Pistorius suggests she may have turned off the alarm, but Nel tells him the “objective set of facts cannot fit into your version”.


Oscar Pistorius told: 'You are getting deeper into trouble' 

11 April

THE Oscar Pistorius murder trial reached the "crux of the case" today as prosecutor Gerrie Nel took the court through the moments when Reeva Steenkamp was shot.

The 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic athlete, who denies deliberately killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year, has faced a week of tough cross-examination. Yesterday, he was portrayed as an egotist who was reckless with guns and who publicly humiliated Steenkamp on several occasions.

Today, the prosecution repeatedly questioned the plausibility of Pistorius’s version of events on the night of the shooting. Nel questioned why he would go towards danger rather than head for safety and why Steenkamp never once responded to his shouts and screams.

Nel said the "crux of the case" is what was going through Steenkamp’s head in the moments before she died. "You knew Reeva was behind the door and you shot at her," he told Pistorius. "That is the only thing that makes sense."

Here are the key moments from today’s cross-examination:

11.55am: Nel tells Pistorius that the most "improbable" part of his story is that Steenkamp never uttered a word from the toilet before she was shot. Pistorius says he presumes that she kept quiet because she was "terrified" and thought the danger was coming towards her. But Nel says the "only reasonable explanation" was that Steenkamp was standing, facing the door, talking to him and that he shot her knowing who he was aiming at. "She wasn't scared of anything, except you. She wasn't scared of an intruder. She was scared of you," he says.

Pistorius repeatedly denies Nel’s claims and says Steenkamp had been involved in a similar incident, where she locked herself away and was not able to speak to people for a day or so afterwards.

There is some confusion when Nel asks Pistorius if Steenkamp screamed after the first shot. Pistorius says categorically she did not, but then claims he misunderstood the question. He says: "The sound of the gunshot, you would not have heard anyone scream. I was screaming. I couldn’t hear my own voice."

Nel says that, for Steenkamp, being in that small cubicle when four shots were fired through the door must have been "horrific". He says that "what happened to her that night was unthinkable" and the "crux of the case" is what was going through Steenkamp's head in those moments, but he claims he has not heard Pistorius talk about it.

The athlete points out that he has already spoken about this in court today. "There are many times that I am haunted by what she thought in the last moments of her life," he adds. "Many, many times."

Pistorius is asked once again to describe the moment he opened fire. He says he thought he heard the door opening and he discharged the firearm. But Nel says: "You knew Reeva was behind the door and you shot at her. That is the only thing that makes sense."

11.40am: Nel questions why Pistorius "felt vulnerable" yet rushed "towards danger" on the night of Steenkamp's death. Pistorius claims he did not rush, but walked towards the bathroom with his gun to get as much distance as possible between Steenkamp, who he believed was in bed, and the "intruder", who he believed was in the bathroom.

Nel questions why he did not try to take Steenkamp to safety through the main bedroom door. Pistorius says he cannot comment on hypothetical events. "It's very easy to look back and look at all the possibilities but that is not what happened," he says. Pistorius says he was shouting and screaming to Steenkamp to call the police and to the "intruder" to get out of the house. Pistorius tells the court: "My version has stayed the same. The state's version has chaged many times, but my version has not changed."

Pistorius makes another mistake in his evidence. After saying it had sounded as if the "intruder" may have kicked the toilet door, he tells the court: "I never, ever said somebody kicked the door." After Nel points out the mistake, Pistorius apologises. "You are thinking of something that never happened and you have to keep up," says Nel. "You have to keep up with an untruth." The prosecutor tells him that his mistakes appear "as convincing as his evidence" in the way that they are delivered.

10.10am: The court returns to the night of Steenkamp’s death. Nel is again trying to find out how Pistorius failed to see Steenkamp leave the bedroom to go to the toilet. He suggests that a blue LCD light from the athlete’s amplifier would have “illuminated” the area. Pistorius says he could only see the silhouette of a pair of Reeva’s jeans about a metre away. It was as he went to put the jeans over the light that he heard a window sliding and hitting the frame in the bathroom.

Nel again shows the court a photograph of the bedroom taken later that morning by police, in which the duvet is on the floor. Pistorius says the duvet was not where he left it but the jeans were roughly in the right area. Nel points out that the jeans are on top of the duvet. Pistorius repeats that the police may have moved the items in the room. “Why would police do that? You're lying,” says Nel. “I don't know why the police did that. I can't explain that. I wasn't there,” says Pistorius.

Pistorius’s defence lawyer objects, asking for evidence that the jeans are actually on top of the duvet, as the photograph is not clear. The judge agrees that the photograph should be blown up and tells Nel to mind his language. “You don't call a witness a liar while he is in the witness box,” she says. The court adjourns for a tea break.

9.45am: Nel asks about an incident in which Pistorius claims he was shot at on a motorway, and asks why he did not report the matter to the police. The athlete says he did not have “trust” in the police that they would be able to do anything about it. Nel also suggests that Pistorius goes “looking for trouble” and that a confrontation may have led to him being assaulted in 2012. Pistorius denies this and points out that he had his firearm with him when he was assaulted, but did not use it.

9.15am: Nel is asking Pistorius about the security precautions he took at his home at the Silverwoods Estate. The athlete confirms that he felt it was safe enough to leave his cars outside, did not immediately fix a broken window downstairs in his home and did not regularly check with security about the safety of the estate.

Nel accuses Pistorius of “tailoring” his evidence with regard to contractors removing sensors to paint his house, something Pistorius denies. "You are getting deeper into trouble Mr Pistorius. You are tailoring your evidence,” says Nel. Pistorius then says he deactivated his alarm on 14 February last year when he ran downstairs to open his front door in order to carry Steenkamp out to get help. However, he later says he “must have” turned off his alarm but cannot remember. Again Nel tells him he is tailoring evidence.

Pistorius grows tearful as he apologises for making a mistake and says he is tired. Judge Thokozile Masipa interrupts to ask if Pistorius is too tired to proceed, warning him that he could be at a disadvantage if he is making mistakes due to tiredness. Pistorius confirms that he is not too tired to continue and that he is not making mistakes because he is tired.

9.00am: Nel begins questioning Pistorius about his experience as a victim of crime. Pistorius has previously claimed he kept his firearm under his bed at night because he has been a victim of violence and burglaries. Today, the athlete admits that he has never gone into a police station to report a crime. He says he did not think anything could be done by police after his home was burgled and he was shot at on a motorway.

Pistorius tells the court that he moved into the Silverwoods Estate in Pretoria, where Steenkamp was killed, in May 2008. Nel asks if it is correct that he has never been a victim of crime at Silverwoods. That is correct, confirms Pistorius. “Except for the police stealing my watches,” he adds.

Oscar Pistorius's claims about night of shooting 'improbable'

10 April

THE claims made by Oscar Pistorius about the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp have been described today as “so improbable" that no one would ever think they were true.

The athlete faced a third day of brutal cross-examination from prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who repeatedly accused him of lying and attempted to portray him as a reckless egotist, who would blame anybody but himself.

The 27-year-old Paralympian, known as the Blade Runner, faces life imprisonment if convicted of deliberately murdering the 29-year-old model on Valentine’s Day last year. Steenkamp’s mother, June, has said she does not "care what happens to Oscar", even if he goes free. She told the Daily Mirror in an interview published today: "All I know is that he has to stand up to what he’s done and – if he has to – pay for it... I don’t need revenge, just the truth.”

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

1.40pm: The prosecution is asking Pistorius how it is possible that he did not see Steenkamp get out of bed to go to the toilet on the night of the shooting. Pistorius describes how he woke up, took two fans in from the balcony and shut the doors and curtains. Nel asks if it is not “strange” that he failed to see Steenkamp. “It was pitch black and it was behind me so it is not strange at all,” says Pistorius. He suggests that without his legs, he was also at a height where the fans were blowing near his face.

Nel shows the court a police photograph of Pistorius's bedroom, in which a large fan is in front of the balcony doors (see below). This would make it difficult for Pistorius to have rushed out onto the balcony to scream for help later on in the night, as he has previously described. Pistorius suggests that it was moved by the police. The curtains have also been opened and the duvet is on the floor, he says, which was not how he left the room. "Your version is a lie," Nel tells him.

After pushing Pistorius to pinpoint exactly where he left the fan, the prosecution claims that the cords would not have reached that far. Pistorius disputes this and even accuses Nel of “misleading the court” after the prosecutor incorrectly suggests that part of the cord was wedged under a speaker. Nevertheless, Nel describes the athlete’s version of events as being "so improbable, no one would ever think it's true".

11.55am: Nel returns to the night of Reeva Steenkamp's death, specifically about the way in which Pistorius shot the gun. The athlete tells the court he fired “four shots in quick succession”, not two "double taps" (two shots fired in rapid succession), which is what his defence lawyer Barry Roux claimed at one point earlier in the trial.

Again, Nel tries to clarify what Pistorius means when he says he shot by accident. “I didn’t mean to pull the trigger. In that sense it was an accident,” says Pistorius. He says the firearm was aimed at the door and the noise coming from the toilet is what made him pull the trigger. "If Reeva had come out or if she had spoken to me, I would not have fired,” he says. For the first time today, Pistorius’s voice begins to crack. He repeats: “I didn't have time to think and I fired my weapon. It was an accident.” The court adjourns for lunch.

11.40am: Judge Thokozile Masipa reprimands Nel for laughing at one of Pistorius's answers. She also gives a warning to the people in the gallery. "You possibly think this is entertainment, but it is not so please restrain yourselves," she says.

11.30am: Nel is asking Pistorius about another firearms charge, in which he is accused of firing a gun out of an open car sunroof in September 2012. He was with his friend Darren Fresco and his then-girlfriend Samantha Taylor. Pistorius says he had his firearm with him when the three of them attended a “get-together” on a boat earlier in the day. The athlete tells the court he carries his gun “everywhere” for his safety.

Nel accuses Pistorius of being negligent with his firearm, after he admitted to leaving it on the boat, wrapped in a towel, when he went for a swim. After the Paralympian says there was no one on the boat who would handle his gun, Nel says: “You just don't take responsibility for anything. You don't do anything wrong.”

10.50am: Nel returns to the WhatsApp messages. "Have you snapped at Reeva in the past?" he asks Pistorius. "I guess I have got upset with her," says the athlete, but he adds that he has never lost his temper or shouted at her. "Reeva was never scared of me," he says. Nel points out that this is not what the WhatsApp message from Steenkamp suggests.

10.10am: The prosecution has turned to one of the athlete’s firearms charges, which relates to an incident before Steenkamp's death when a Glock pistol went off in a Johannesburg restaurant called Tashas. Pistorius admits that the gun went off in his possession, but he will not admit that he had his finger on the trigger when it discharged. He says he was “negligent”, even “reckless”, for taking the weapon from his friend Darren Fresco without first checking that it had a round in it. "It was a stupid thing to do," he says.

However, Nel points to previous evidence given by ballistics expert Chris Mangena, who said it would not have been possible to fire a shot from the Glock pistol without pulling the trigger. Pistorius also claims that he took the blame for the gun going off and offered to pay the restaurant for the damages, while previous witnesses have said the athlete asked Fresco to take the blame. Nel tells Pistorius he is "lying" and that this is "a good example of you not taking responsibility for what you did".

9.45am: Nel continues to go line-by-line through messages sent during an argument between Pistorius and Steenkamp. He accuses Pistorius of "blaming" Steenkamp on a number of occasions. Pistorius says that is the nature of an argument, although he concedes that, on one occasion when he brushed his girlfriend off as she touched his neck, he may have "humiliated" her. Nel suggests that after one argument, Pistorius purposefully played the song Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe by Kendrick Lamar, to which Steenkamp took offence. The Paralympian says he only asked his friend to play the album during a car journey and did not even know if that was a Lamar song.

9.05am: Pistorius is being challenged about a few longer, unhappy messages from Steenkamp, in which she told the athlete “I'm scared of you sometimes” and “you have picked on me incessantly”. The athlete denies that he picked on her and does not understand why she wrote that. He says he never screamed at her, although admits that he screamed at one of his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor's friends. Pistorius begins suggesting that Steenkamp was "scared of her feelings” for him but clarifies that she was "obviously scared of the way I react to the things she does at times". Nel is repeatedly emphasising how much Pistorius uses the word “I” and suggesting that he was more concerned with himself than Steenkamp. 

8.40am: Nel is questioning Pistorius about the WhatsApp messages between himself and Steenkamp. He notes that “I love you” does not appear in any of the messages. Pistorius tells the court that he never got the opportunity to tell Reeva he loved her.

Oscar Pistorius describes how Reeva died as he held her body

9 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS faced a brutal cross-examination in court today, as the prosecution demanded that he looked at an image of Reeva Steenkamp’s fatal head wounds.

The athlete spent a third day in the witness box, giving evidence at his murder trial in Pretoria. It followed his dramatic testimony on Tuesday, which had to be adjourned when he broke down and wept uncontrollably. Pistorius gave a harrowing account of how he killed Steenkamp on 14 February 2013, shooting her through the door of the toilet cubicle at his home.

Today he told the court what happened in the hours after the shooting. He then faced a tough cross-examination by the prosecution, which produced unforeseen video footage of Pistorius shooting at a watermelon with “zombie-stopper” bullets.

Here are the key moments of today's testimony:

1.55pm: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has been pushing Pistorius to admit that he deliberately shot at the toilet door, but the athlete insists it was not deliberate. "I fired my firearm before I could think, before I even had a moment to comprehend what was happening,” Pistorius tells the court. He repeats that he “did not intend to shoot at anyone” and “shot out of fear”.

Judge Thokozile Masipa steps in when Nel asks the defendant why he is becoming emotional again. "He may be emotional,” says Masipa. “I don't think you can ask him, ‘Why now?’ He has been emotional throughout."

Nel pushes Pistorius to admit that he is thinking about the implications of his answers in court. The athlete says it would be "reckless" not to, adding "My life is on the line." Nel takes the opportunity to remind him that Reeva does not have a life because of his actions and asks him to "think of Reeva" rather than the implications of what he is saying.

12.05pm: Nel is highlighting a discrepancy between the version of events given by Pistorius in court and the affidavit he signed for his bail application. In the affidavit, Pistorius says:

During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom.

However, Pistorius has told the court he did not go out fully onto his bedroom balcony to retrieve the fan. The Paralympian has been given time to read his full affidavit statement over lunch.

In the lead-up to the trial, the prosecution questioned how Pistorius did not notice that Reeva had left the bed. Nel therefore looks likely to ask the athlete to explain another section of his statement, in which he says: “With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in.”

11.00am: The court reconvenes after an adjournment and is shown a video, previously revealed by Sky News in February. In the footage, Pistorius is seen firing a pistol at a watermelon at a shooting range, which explodes when it is hit. Laughter is heard and then a man off-camera says: "It's not as soft as brains but f*** its a zombie stopper." When asked to explain what was going on, Pistorius tells the court it was not him laughing but it was him who said the words. “In hindsight, I'm very upset that I used those words,” he says. However, the athlete insists he was referring to zombies and not humans and questions why it is relevant to the trial.

A photograph of Reeva’s head wounds appears on screen and Nel declares: “You saw how the bullet made the watermelon explode. You know that the same thing happened to Reeva's head... Look at it.” Sobbing, Pistorius tells the court: “I remember. I won't look at that picture. I remember. I was there.”

The athlete’s defence lawyer steps in and the judge asks for the picture to be removed. The court is adjourned once again to give Pistorius time to compose himself.

9.39am: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, nicknamed 'The Pit Bull', opens the state's cross-examination with the question: "You killed Reeva Steenkamp, didn't you?" Pistorius says that he made a mistake and vows to tell the truth. Things take an unexpected turn when Nel asks Pistorius if he knows what a “zombie stopper” is. Pistorius says he does not. Nel claims to have a video, which is already in the public domain, relating to the term “zombie stopper” but the athlete’s defence jumps in and talks of an “ambush” and “constitutional rights”. The court adjourns so the judge and lawyers can decide whether to show the video, which was not previously submitted in the state's evidence.

9.30am: Defence lawyer Barry Roux asks Pistorius directly if he intended to kill Steenkamp. “I did not intend to kill Reeva, m'lady, or anyone else for that matter,” Pistorius replies. The court is adjourned for five minutes.

9.05am: The athlete’s lawyer Barry Roux asks Pistorius if he was wearing his prosthetic legs when he smashed down the toilet door with a cricket bat to gain entry after the shooting. Pistorius has previously claimed he was wearing the legs at this point, but the prosecution claims he was on his stumps. Pistorius insists he had his legs on. “I can barely stand on my stumps, let alone wield a bat,” he says.

8.30am: The court has picked up from the moment Pistorius entered the toilet to help Steenkamp, after shooting her four times through the locked door. The athlete says that his girlfriend did not appear to be breathing. He managed to get her out of the toilet cubicle and onto the bathroom floor but struggled to carry her body and feared he would hurt her further. He called a friend from the estate, Johan Stander, for help and then 911 Netcare. The Paralympian has said he cannot remember certain points after this. For example, he says he doesn't recall phoning security, but records show that a call was made to security on his mobile.

Stander and his daughter arrived shortly afterwards. "I felt helpless. I just wanted to take her to the hospital, I had my finger in her mouth. I was trying to help her breathe," explains Pistorius. Paramedics later arrived, but Pistorius said: “Reeva had already died whilst I was holding her, before the ambulance arrived, so I knew that there was nothing that I could do for her.”

Oscar Pistorius describes night he shot Reeva Steenkamp

8 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS retched and broke into heaving sobs as he described the moment he realised that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

In a second day of evidence, he repeated his claims that he believed he was firing at an intruder who had broken into his luxury apartment.

"I needed to protect myself and Reeva," he told the court, describing his reaction to hearing noises in the flat. "I needed to get my gun."

Pistorius is accused of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp on 14 February last year. He denies the charge, along with other firearms offences.

He spent the morning telling the court how he had been “besotted” with Steenkamp and said they had been making "future plans" together.

Below are the key points of today's testimony:

1.30pm: Defence lawyer Barry Roux tells the judge that Pistorius is too emotional to continue with his testimony. "His shirt is soaking wet," Roux says. The prosecution agrees to an adjournment, and the trial will resume tomorrow morning.

1.19pm: The judge orders an adjournment as Pistorius breaks down in tears after describing how he discovered Steenkamp's body in the toilet. He said he had returned to his bedroom after firing the shots and had looked for his girlfriend there. When he saw she wasn't on the bed, he had hoped that she had hid under the bed, but gradually he realised that it might have been her he heard in the bathroom. Then he tried to open the locked door to the toilet, returning to his bedroom to pick up the cricket bat and then using that to break down the door. When he saw the body, he said, "Oh Reeva."

1.12pm: As Pistorius reaches the critical point of his testimony, his voice rises in pitch:

I wasn’t sure if someone was going to come out of the toilet and attack me or come up the ladder and point a firearm in the house and start shooting, so I stayed where I was. Then I heard a noise in the toilet which I perceived to be someone in the toilet. Before I knew it I shot four shots through the door.

My ears were still ringing so I kept shouting for Reeva. I wasn’t sure if there was someone in the toilet. I don’t know how long I stood there for.

1.11pm: Back on the witness stand after lunch, Pistorius picks up his testimony where he left off:

As I peered in [to the bathroom] I could see that the window was open. I was with my back against the wall with my hand against the wall for balance slowly scuffling along the left-hand wall. I wasn’t sure if the intruders were in the toilet or on a ladder that they would have used to gain access or if they were round the corner at that point. I still had my firearm in front of me.

1.05pm: Aislinn Laing, the Daily Telegraph's sourthern Africa correspondent, reports that just before lunch, "the court paused to bring up a picture on the screen requested by Mr Roux, and a photograph of Steenkamp’s body flashed up. Pistorius collapsed in the witness box, his arms covering his head, and vomited. He was taken a green bucket and the court adjourned for lunch."

Midday: At 1pm local time, and at a crucial moment in Pistorius's statement, the court adjourns for lunch.

11.55am: Speaking quickly in a silent courtroom, Pistorius continues his testimony: 

As I entered where the passage is to the bathroom I was overcome with fear and start screaming for the burglars to get out of my house. I shouted for Reeva to get on the floor. I slowly made my way down the passage, constantly aware that these people could come at me at any time. I didn't have my legs on. Just before I got to the wall of where the tiles start in the bathroom I stopped shouting as I was worried the person would know exactly where I was and I could get shot. I heard a toilet door slam, what could only have been the toilet door. I couldn't see inside, but it confirmed for me there was a person or people inside.

11.50am: Pistorius describes the moment that he heard someone inside his apartment:

It was at this point that I heard a window open in the bathroom, it sounded like the window sliding open. I could hear it hit the frame as though it had hit a point where it couldn't slide any more. That's the moment that everything changed. I thought there was a burglar entering my home. I was on the side of the room where you first have to cross the passage that leads to the bathroom. I just froze, I heard this noise, I interpreted it as someone climbing into the bathroom. I thought they could be there at any moment. The first thing I thought was I needed to arm myself, I needed to protect myself and Reeva, I needed to get my gun.

11.45am: Pistorius removes his prosthetic legs in court, demonstrating his ability to stand without them.

11.30am: Pistorius says that he slept with the windows open on the night in question because the air conditioning was not working. He placed a cricket bat beside a cabinet because he was worried that the bedroom door lock was flimsy. He was particularly edgy because the alarm system on his apartment was out of action after building work.

More about Oscar Pistorius:

Oscar Pistorius murder trial: what has happened so far? Oscar Pistorius: police release photos of crime scene Oscar Pistorius: pathologist to testify ahead of athlete Pistorius: woman's 'terrified' screams heard 'loud and clear' Oscar Pistorius: has prosecutor found surprise new evidence? Pistorius used bullets that cause 'maximum wounding' Oscar Pistorius: police accused of 'disturbing' crime scene Oscar Pistorius paid £2,700 for six guns before Reeva’s death Oscar Pistorius: photos show athlete drenched in blood  

Pistorius: 'I wasn't kind to her like I should have been'

8 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS admitted today that he had not been as “kind” to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp as he should have been on at least one occasion during their relationship.

The athlete, who is accused of deliberately murdering Steenkamp on 14 February last year, has been giving evidence at the Pretoria court for a second day.

He spent the morning telling the court how he had been “besotted” with Steenkamp and how they had been talking about their "future plans" together.

The couple met on 4 November 2012, he said, a little more than three months before she died.

Pistorius was on the verge of tears as he described how they had been looking at interior decorating items together for a new home he was buying in Johannesburg. 

He was asked by his lawyer Barry Roux to “speak up” and his voice cracked again as he read out a long message from Steenkamp, shown previously to the court, in which she told him: “I am scared of you sometimes.”

Pistorius explained: "It was a bad day in our relationship. I think I was just being sensitive, maybe I felt a bit insecure or jealous... I wasn't kind to her like I should have been."

However, he insisted that the issue was resolved and Steenkamp sent a reply with five kisses to him soon after.

Pistorius read out numerous other messages that showed the more loving side of their relationship, including pet names such as "Boo", "Babycakes" and "Angel".

In one message, he told her "I miss my other half" and in others they joked about “running away” together.

The athlete read out similar messages for almost an hour and a half, noted the Daily Telegraph. “The defence is clearing making the point that the few angry messages between the pair we heard earlier are vastly outnumbered by the hundreds of affectionate ones.”

The paralympian has so far only given background evidence, but looks likely to start speaking about the night of the shooting later today.

Oscar Pistorius tells court he wakes up 'smelling blood'

7 April

OSCAR PISTORIUS has begun giving evidence at his murder trial in Pretoria. He started his tearful testimony by telling the court that he often has nightmares and wakes up "smelling blood".

The athlete took the stand for the first time today and first apologised to Reeva Steenkamp's family for the events that led to her death on 14 February last year. "I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved," he told them.

Pistorius said he still has "terrible nightmares" about what happened. "I wake up and I can smell blood and I wake up to being terrified," he said. "I hear a noise and I wake up in a complete state of terror, to the point that I would rather not sleep."

The Paralympian gave lengthy background evidence about his past, describing how his prosthetics were heavy and difficult to use when he was young. He took part in most sports at school, he said, but "wasn't very good at any of them".

He said his mother, who died when he was 15, had a lot of security concerns because his father was often away and they did not live in a very nice suburb. She kept a pistol in a bag under her pillow, he said.

He explained that he was rarely without his prosthetics and does not have balance on his stumps. The fact that he cannot stand still on them is a potentially key point in terms of when he fired the fatal shots, says The Guardian.

Before the court adjourned for lunch, Pistorius described how a boating accident in 2009 had a "massive impact" on him. He was in an induced coma for several days, had his jaw wired shut for four or five weeks and had around 170 stitches in his face.

The athlete said the accident made him more fearful for his life and he was left thinking that he wanted to take his sport more seriously.

Pistorius later described how he had been a victim of crime on several occasions. His childhood home was broken into "many times", he said, his own house was burgled, he was the victim of an assault at a party, had been followed home several times, and even shot at once on a motorway.

"I think everybody in South Africa has been exposed to crime at some point," he said. The athlete described helping a taxi driver who had been attacked with rocks. He said he drew his gun to fend off the attackers and helped the man before calling the police.

Pistorius also spoke about his religion and said that he had been pleased to meet Steenkamp who was a "strong Christian" and would pray for him, for his training and for "every little thing".

He added: "I think religion is definitely the thing that's got me through this last year."

He talked about how he had been planning to buy a home with Steenkamp in Johannesburg, adding: "I was taken aback by her and bowled over by how much I felt for her."

The defence requested an early adjournment as Pistorius had not slept and was "very tired". The judge agreed, noting: "He does look exhausted. He sounds exhausted."

Earlier in the day, Professor Jan Botha, a pathologist, gave evidence in court, suggesting that it was "highly unlikely" that Steenkamp would have been able to call out between the shots that finally killed her. · 

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