Oscar Pistorius

South African prosecutor urges Pistorius to take responsibility for killing girlfriend

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 10:29am

The chief prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial yesterday urged the athlete to "take responsibility" for fatally shooting his girlfriend, telling him to look at a police photograph of a dead Reeva Steenkamp's bloodied head that was displayed in court.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Steenkamp's head "exploded" when it was struck by one of four hollow-point bullets that the double-amputee runner fired through a closed toilet door in his home last year. The photograph showed a side view of Steenkamp's head, with a mass of blood and human tissue on the back and upper parts.

Watch: Pistorius grilled over 'terrible mistake'

"It's time that you look at it," Nel said on the first day of cross-examination of Pistorius.

"I remember," Pistorius said, becoming distraught and turning away from where the photo was shown on a TV screen next to him. "I will not look at a picture where I'm tormented by what I saw and felt that night. As I picked Reeva up, my fingers touched her head. I remember. I don't have to look at a picture, I was there."

Nel had set the stage for a rigorous cross-examination by demanding that Pistorius openly say he killed his girlfriend, sharply challenging him when he said he made a "mistake".

The prosecutor showed a video, earlier broadcast on Sky News, of the celebrated Olympic athlete firing a gun at a watermelon and then saying it was "softer than brains" and calling the powerful .50-calibre handgun a "zombie stopper".

Referring to the watermelon video, Nel said to Pistorius: "You know the same happened to Reeva's head? It exploded."

Pistorius, his voice rising and starting to sob, said he was at the scene when Steenkamp died and knew of her terrible head injury.

He has said he shot the model by accident on February 14, 2013, mistaking her for an intruder.

After the dramatic and aggressive start to his cross-examination, causing Pistorius to break down and the judge to call a recess, Nel also started to poke holes in details of Pistorius' version of the events of the fatal night. Nel also tried to dismantle the sympathetic image of Pistorius that the defence had sought to build up in three days of testimony.

Nel tried to drive a wedge between the rosy former image of Pistorius and the ideals the runner said he aspired to, and the prosecution depiction of the runner as a hothead with a gun obsession.

Earlier, Pistorius described what he said were the last moments of his girlfriend's life and how he dragged her, bleeding and "struggling to breathe" out of a toilet cubicle and downstairs to get help.

He said she died in his arms before paramedics arrived at his house.

"Reeva had died while I was holding her," Pistorius said, telling how he put his fingers in her mouth in an attempt to help her breathe.