Oscar Pistorius trial: 'Pit bull' prosecutor tells court athlete 'knew Reeva was behind the toilet' door before he shot her


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The Independent Online

Oscar Pistorius knew girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was "behind the toilet" door when he shot her dead following an argument on Valentine's Day last year, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel told his murder trial.

"She was standing behind the toilet door talking to you when you shot her," Mr Nel claimed in court, saying the couple arguing was the only "reasonable explanation" for Ms Steenkamp to be standing behind the cubicle door, to which he immediately replied: "That's not true".

Returning to the witness box after three days of dramatic cross-examination, Mr Nel accused the athlete of lying, "getting deeper into trouble" and tailoring his version of events as tried to poke holes in his testimony.

Continuing his aggressive questioning, Mr Nel, known as the 'pit bull', told the court it is "improbable" that Ms Steenkamp "never uttered a word" to him while he approached the toilet door, screaming for the model and law graduate to phone the police.

"Mr Pistorius, you're in the room, you're shouting, she's three meters away from you in that particular door," he said. "There is no way that you'll convince a court she stood there and said nothing."

The athlete suggested she would have been "terrified" and kept quiet as he approached the toilet door thinking the burglar was coming closer to her.

But Mr Nel fired back: "She wasn't scared of anything, she wasn't scared of an intruder, she was scared of you."


A visibly shaken Pistorius insisted Ms Steenkamp did not respond or scream after he fired the first out of four shots, before adding: "I wish she had let me know she was there". 

Mr Nel challenged the athlete further, signalling that he previously told the court he couldn't hear because his "ears were ringing" after the first shot.

Following a tense exchange, Pistorius conceded: "My Lady, the sound of that gunshot in the bathroom, you wouldn't have heard anyone scream.

"The decibels of the gunshot, I don't believe you would have heard anyone scream. When I had finished firing the gunshots, I was screaming and I couldn't hear my own voice."

Pistorius claims that, while he brought two fans from his balcony door, Ms Steenkamp, who was awake at the time and had just spoken to him,  stood up and headed to the en-suite style bathroom, down a 7 metre long passageway, without him knowing.

He mistook the sound of her opening the bathroom window for an intruder entering up a ladder, and, in the pitch dark bedroom, he grabbed his firearm and screamed for her to call the police. Instead, she ran into the toilet and hid.

Mr Nel pressured Pistorius to explain why failed to check on Ms Steenkamp when he heard the noise or asked if she heard it too, which would have been "the normal thing to do". Instead, he grabbed his firearm.

He also questioned his "instinct" to move towards what he perceived to be an intruder if he felt vulnerable on his stumps. The athlete argued that is "personality" and he wanted to "protect Reeva".


On entering the bathroom, Pistorius told the court fell silent because he didn't want to "reveal his position". But he perceived a sound of "wood moving" behind the toilet door and mistook it "for an intruder coming out to attack me".

He then fired four shots through the locked toilet door, three of which hit Ms Steenkamp in the arm, head and hip. Mr Nel insisted Pistorius's version is "improbable" and "far-fetched".

"It is so far-fetched that it would happen," he added. "It's improbable that you would even think an intruder would run into the toilet and lock the door"

There are are no juries at trials in South Africa and his fate will ultimately be decided by Judge Masipa, assisted by two assessors. The case continues.