PRETORIA: Oscar Pistorius stepped down from the witness box yesterday after five gruelling days of cross-examination that raised serious doubts about his account of killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The relieved and tearful 27-year-old Paralympic gold medallist hugged younger sister Aimee from the stand after tenacious lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court he had “nothing further for this witness”.
For nearly a week Nel had spent hour after antagonising hour dragging Pistorius over the coals, accusing him of lying, tailoring evidence and even crying to avoid tough questions.
Nel began his interrogation in shocking fashion, forcing the weeping and disconsolate athlete to look at gruesome images of 29-year-old Steenkamp’s blood-mottled head, which, the prosecutor claimed, “exploded like a watermelon”.
Nel — nicknamed “the bulldog” — demanded Pistorius acknowledge he made more than a mere “mistake”, as the athlete insisted time after time as he maintained he shot the model and aspiring TV actress on Valentine’s Day after mistaking her for an intruder.
Concluding his questioning, Nel demanded to know whom to blame for Steenkamp’s death if Pistorius would not take responsibility. “Should we blame Reeva? She never told you she was going to the toilet,” he said.
“Should we blame the government?” he asked facetiously. Pistorius has claimed the police contaminated the crime scene, moving objects around and even stealing some of his watches.
In taking the stand Pistorius had hoped to show the court he and Steenkamp had been in a happy and loving relationship and her death was a tragic accident.
Yesterday, he even revealed the contents of a Valentine’s Day card in which Steenkamp said “I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you.”
But inconsistencies in his account, sometimes evasive and antagonistic answers, and his sketchy memory of some details may have weakened his case.
The athlete blamed his legal team for inconsistencies in his accounts and appeared to change his defence midway through cross-examination, saying that he pulled the trigger “accidentally” rather than in self-defence.
Earlier in the day, legal teams for the prosecution and the defence both called for a two-week adjournment beginning on Friday. The proposal would see court resume on May 5.