Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Oscar trial: Nel accuses Pistorius of faking tears

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused Oscar Pistorius on Monday of faking emotional distress on the witness stand. He contended this was happening because Pistorius knew his version of why he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp did not hold water. 

As the disabled Olympic athlete broke down under cross-examination in the high court in Pretoria, Nel asked point-blank: "Mr Pistorius you are not using your emotional state as an escape, are you?"

Pistorius, who risks a life sentence for premeditated murder, protested that he had become emotional because he was recalling a traumatic event.

In his fourth day of facing questions from Nel, Pistorius insisted he had not intended to fire his 9mm pistol when he sent four shots into a locked toilet door in his house on Valentine's Day last year, fatally wounding the 29-year-old Steenkamp.

Pistorius said his arm had not been extended, but bent when he pulled the trigger, adding: "I didn't intend to fire, but I fired. I fired my firearm out of fear, by accident."

Nel said this response constituted two legal defences and reminded Pistorius that he was only entitled to one. "Your defence has now changed, Sir, from putative self-defence to involuntary action," Nel stated incredulously, before asking whether Pistorius would at least concede that he had aimed his firearm at the door because he believed danger to lurk behind it.

Pistorius replied that he had not. "So it was just luck that the gun was pointed at the door?" the prosecutor asked.

Pistorius retorted: "It wasn't luck. She lost her life."

He has told the court he was alarmed by the sound of a bathroom window being slid open and rushed to confront a suspected intruder, but Nel contends that he deliberately shot Steenkamp after a row.

Wailed and retched
Pistorius has testified that he has been on tranquillisers for the past year, and has wailed in torment and retched at several points in the six-week-old trial as he listening to descriptions of Steenkamp's injuries. 

On Monday, he was frequently reduced to tears by Nel whose scathing manner drew several reprimands from Judge Thokozile Masipa.

Pistorius wept as Nel pressed him to recall the exact words he used to order the intruder from his home before firing the shots that hit Steenkamp in the hip, arm and head. After a long pause, the athlete cried: "I said 'Get the fuck out of my house, get the fuck out of my house'."

Masipa adjourned court and when it resumed Nel returned to the point and suggested Pistorius had snapped because he had in fact directed that phrase at Steenkamp after they had argued violently.

"Is that what you had shouted at Reeva?" asked the prosecutor.

Soon afterwards, Pistorius again broke down when Nel alleged he knew he was aiming at Steenkamp and had in fact adjusted his aim when he heard a wooden magazine rack move, betraying her position behind the door.

"I did not fire at Reeva [Steenkamp]," the accused sobbed, again prompting an adjournment.

Main argument
As Nel began his questioning on Monday, he warned Pistorius that his main argument for the day would be that he was tailoring his evidence to support an improbable version of events. The prosecutor repeatedly told Pistorius that he had strayed far from his evidence-in-chief on many points, including where he had placed the electric fan he said he had moved around the bed before hearing a suspicious noise. 

Initially Pistorius said he had placed it in front of a window, but he has changed his account to locate it at the foot of the bed.

Nel said the position of the fan, a pair of jeans and a blood-spattered duvet and a pair of flip-flops all contradicted his account. He zoomed in on Steenkamp's white flip-flops and asked why these were found on the left side of the bed when Pistorius testified that exceptionally he had slept on that side because of a shoulder injury.

And, Nel added, why were all her other clothes apart from these and the jeans packed into an overnight bag? When Pistorius could not provide an answer, Nel put it to him: "She wanted to leave … and you shot her."

He ridiculed Pistorius's claim that he had realised he must have mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder immediately after discovering that she was not in bed. Why, he asked, did he not check whether she was hiding elsewhere and why did he continue to clutch his gun as if he might still be under threat from an intruder?

Pistorius said it was because he was still hoping that the burglar scenario was in fact true though feared it was not. When Nel scoffed, the judge intervened to support Pistorius's answer. "I don't think so, you may think one thing but hope another thing," she said.

The trial continues on Tuesday, with Pistorius due back on the stand. – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories


Subscribers only

GDP, recession, JSE, rallying rand … these terms mean very...

The economy is not producing work, with many young adults working outside their fields of study or considering leaving the country as a result

More top stories

New membership system encounters problems in ANC branches

The Lower South Coast region has complained of a plot by some branch secretaries to manipulate the system

Police analyst implicated in R600k fraud scheme

But the forensic analyst has also claimed to be a victim of identity fraud

Economy’s signs of life mean little for the poor

GDP growth may be encouraging but it doesn’t mean much for SA’s millions of unemployed

The ANC has moral decay on its plate, and the...

Analysis of news coverage in May shows a governing party that is broke — and bitterly at war with itself

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…