The prosecution angrily accused Oscar Pistorius of tailoring evidence and overplaying his deep fear of crime Friday to justify shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
During a third day of stern cross-examination, prosecutor Gerrie Nel insisted that the 27-year-old was selective in his recollection of events.
Amid volley after volley of questions about the minutiae of what happened that Valentine’s Day night and over apparent discrepancies in Pistorius’s accounts, the sprinter grew increasingly agitated.
“I’m not looking for an excuse, if I don’t remember it I don’t remember it!” Pistorius said, breaking down during one exchange about the placement of objects in his bedroom.
“This is the night I lost the person I most cared about, I don’t know how people don’t understand that,” he said through sobs.
Earlier Nel had accused him of changing his version of events and of not remembering details that could be detrimental to the athlete’s case.
“Why are you changing your evidence?” Nel asked.
“I’m tired my lady,” Pistorius said.
“I’m not convinced about your answer now, I think you’re trying to cover up for lies,” Nel said accusingly.
Nel also tried to show that Pistorius was not as concerned about crime as he claimed because he did not quickly fix a broken window and may not have turned on his house alarm the night the 29-year-old model was killed.
“Did you ever go into a police station and complain about anything?” asked Nel, after Pistorius listed the many times he had been a victim of crime.
“No, I did not,” Pistorius admitted, “except for the police stealing my watches my lady,” he said referring to luxury watches that went missing at the Steenkamp death scene.
The athlete said he fired through his locked bathroom door thinking the 29-year-old model and aspiring actress was an intruder, as he had a heightened fear of being a victim of crime.
– Not ready –
Before starting a third day of pummelling cross-examination, Nel said Steenkamp’s mother acknowledged that Pistorius had requested for a meeting with the family.
Nel had attacked Pistorius for a public apology to the Steenkamps when he took the stand on Monday, but the double amputee sprinter said he had once asked to meet his girlfriend’s family in person, presumably to apologise.
June Steenkamp’s lawyer confirmed the request, Nel told the court.
“But they weren’t ready.”
“Mrs Steenkamp felt it was important to be put on the record,” he said.
June Steenkamp has been hard on Pistorius and was quoted in a newspaper this week saying the athlete had gone from “hero to devil” after killing her daughter.
“My presence unnerves him, I’m sure of it. He’s answerable to me,” Steenkamp told Britain’s Daily Mirror.
– ‘It’s so impossible’ –
Friday marked a difficult week on the stand for the accused, during which he has been accused of lying and fabricating evidence.
“Your version is so improbable that nobody would ever think it’s reasonably, possibly true it’s so impossible,” Nel thundered during the cross-examination.
“Your version… is a lie,” he insisted.
Confronted with crime scene pictures that showed his version to be improbable, Pistorius said police tampered with objects when they came to his upmarket house.
Someone moved fans, pulled the duvet onto the floor and opened the curtains, he said.
“Is this one big conspiracy?” asked Nel with incredulity. “They would do all this to you?”
Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” for his j-shaped prosthetic legs, has been charged with murdering Steenkamp in the early morning hours of February 14, 2013.
He faces a life sentence if convicted.
The double-amputee, once revered for his triumph over disability, has said he fired the shots accidentally and did not mean to kill anyone.
He also testified that he feared someone was coming through the toilet door and that his life was in danger.
This seemingly contradictory account was probed at length by Nel, who drew a concession from Pistorius that the shots should not have been fired at all.
“We know for a fact there were no intruders in your house that night, we know for a fact there was no ladder against the wall,” Nel said.
“We know for a fact that you had no reason to shoot, objectively speaking.”
Pistorius responded: “That’s correct my lady.”
Pistorius’s cross-examination is a key point in his trial and a stern test of both his version of events and of his resolve.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux is expected to call up to 17 witnesses in the remainder of the case.
Originally scheduled to run for three weeks, the case has been extended until mid-May but could go on longer.