Defence has to overcome Pistorius’ evasive and contradictory testimony

Paralympic athlete did not help himself with evasive, angry and contradictory testimony

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 6:32pm


"Roses are red, violets are blue. Today is a good day to tell you that … I love you."

That was the text in a Valentine's Day card that Reeva Steenkamp wrote to her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, hours before he shot and killed her.

It was the last piece of evidence heard as the Paralympic athlete completed a harrowing week of testimony on Tuesday, wrapping up the central chapter of a sensational murder trial.

As a shell-shocked Pistorius stepped down from the witness box, the court exhaled its collective breath and relief was written on the faces of his watching family. A man once lauded for his sporting achievements - the first amputee to run in the Olympics - had discovered how harsh the flip side of celebrity can be.

Watch: Prosecution grills expert witness in Pistorius trial

Many following the trial on television and Twitter have now turned against him. Goaded, taunted and tormented by the prosecution, Pistorius was perhaps his own worst enemy during cross-examination, suffering surprising memory lapses and appearing evasive, agitated and self-contradictory. In particular, his explanation of why he pulled the trigger by "accident" mutated often and never solidified.

But some believe that prosecutor Gerrie Nel , while remorselessly attacking Pistorius' claim that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, never quite established a motive or landed a knockout punch.

As the trial enters its final phase, the athlete's legal team will go all out in an attempt to sow reasonable doubt over his guilt. The fightback began immediately after the cross-examination. A defence counsel, Barry Roux, asked Pistorius about a Valentine's card that Steenkamp had intended to give him on February 14 last year, the day she died.

Pistorius said: "The envelope says 'Ozzie', with some hearts and a squiggle, and then it says on the front of the card: 'Roses are red, violets are blue.' Then on the inside she wrote the date on the left, then on the right she said: 'I think today is a good day to tell you that … I love you.'"

It was signed 'Reeves', with a smiley face and three kisses.

The timing of Steenkamp's death has always been seen as a poignant element in a case already replete with noirish twists. On February 13 the blonde model had tweeted: "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay."

The Valentine's card was an ace kept up the sleeve of the defence in riposte to Nel's assertion that Pistorius was bullying and narcissistic and argued with Steenkamp shortly before murdering her.

Last week the prosecution highlighted WhatsApp messages between the couple that showed they never used the words "I love you" to one another.

But the defence has many more hills to climb. Winding up his cross-examination, Nel put the state's case in a nutshell for the first time. He said Steenkamp ate around two hours before her death, when the couple had an argument that was heard by a neighbour. She locked herself in the toilet and screamed. Pistorius then took his pistol and fired through the door as the two talked.

William Booth, a lawyer and analyst, said: "I don't think Oscar did particularly well. He's a poor witness." But he added: "Even if he's a poor witness, is he a lying witness? For a conviction, the judge has to reject his version as false and find the state's case proven beyond a reasonable doubt."