Pretoria: Oscar Pistorius was accused of using emotional outbursts to avoid difficult questions, changing his defence and screaming at his girlfriend to “get the f--- out” of his home the night he shot and killed her in what was a torrid sixth day of evidence at his murder trial.
Under pressure on the fourth day of relentless cross-examination, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel appeared to tie Pistorius in knots as he continued to explore the fine details of his story, submitting to him his version was so improbable it was simply “not true.”
In a bid to prove he is lying about his account of what occurred in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year, Mr Nel alleged numerous inconsistencies in his version, highlighting that Pistorius was a stickler for detail on some matters and had complete memory blank on others.
Twice the court was adjourned to allow the athlete time to regain his composure, prompting an increasingly exasperated Mr Nel to suggest he was using tears to mask difficulties in answering questions and keeping his story straight.
After one exchange in which the athlete appeared to be on the verge of tears, Mr Nel asked why was emotional because there had been no mention of Ms Steenkamp.
“Mr Pistorius, you’re not using your emotional state as an escape, are you?”
He said he was not – one of dozens of denials made throughout Day 22 of the trial.
The morning’s first break in proceedings came after Mr Nel focused on the moments after the Olympian claims to have heard the window open in the bathroom that fateful morning.
He has previously told the court that as he grabbed his 9mm pistol from under his bed, he told her in a soft voice that she should “stay down and call the police”.
However moments later, on his version, as he went up the passage way towards the bathroom, he was yelling at her to call the police.
Pistorius said he wanted to “chase” the intruders from his home.
Mr Nel asked what words he shouted, and Pistorius tearfully told the court he was yelling: “Get the f--- out of my house! Get the f--- out of my house!”
The court quickly adjourned as the Olympian dissolved into sobs.
But there was no let-up from the prosecutor - nicknamed “the Pit Bull” - when the court resumed.
“Why did you get emotional (just now)? Isn’t it exactly because that’s what you shouted at Reeva: ‘Get the f--- out of my house!’ That’s what you said, that’s why you got emotional, isn't it?” he asked.
“No, my lady,” Pistorius replied.
“I don't understand why you would get emotional then - when you shouted it?” Mr Nel asked.
Pistorius said he was “traumatised” by the event, and recalling what he felt on the night prompted his outburst.
As the court approached the lunch break, Pistorius said he “pulled the trigger as I perceived danger to be coming towards me”.
Mr Nel jumped quickly: “So it was just lucky that the gun was pointed at the door?”
“Why would it be lucky? She lost her life”, Pistorius fired back emotionally.
Mr Nel commenting “now you cry again” before noting it was time for the hour recess.
Legal experts said the prosecution made significant headway on the question of “intent” today, not helped by Pistorius appearing to change his defence from one of self-defence, in which he genuinely believed he was acting lawfully, to another available which is that of an “involuntary action”.
The latter usually associated with occurrences like an epileptic fit.
Pistorius denied it was his defence that he fired at an attacker, saying he just fired in response to a noise; there was no thought behind it.
Pistorius: “I wasn’t aiming at the door ... I was trying to make sense of it, my eyes were going between the window and the door. The firearm was up.
Mr Nel persisted: “Were you aiming?”
Pistorius: The firearm was pointed at the door, my lady … I then discharged my firearm... I didn’t want to shoot. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was terrified.”
Mr Nel quickly retorted: “So that is your new defence? Involuntary action? You can only have one defence Mr Pistorius! And yours is changing too many times, and that's because you fired at Reeva!”
As he did so, Pistorius, almost screaming, said, “I did not fire at Reeva!”
The court was once more adjourned, but when they returned, Nel told Pistorius he became emotional because he got his defences mixed up.
Mr Nel later suggested that this was “a problem” for Pistorius that he wasn’t thinking – because that would imply recklessness.
“One of the ways out was through the door, but you never gave them a chance,” he said.
Day five of Mr Nel’s cross-examination begins on Tuesday.