Oscar Pistorius trial: Prosecution calls for athlete's testimony to be rejected in closing arguments

Defence and prosecution set for final courtroom battle as closing arguments for and against the athlete are heard in court

The prosecution in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial launched a scathing attack against the athlete, calling for his testimony to be rejected, as it presented its closing arguments against him.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused the athlete of being a "deceitful and appalling witness" and claimed he had consistently tailored his version of events because his testimony was "weak" and his answers "vague".

Oscar Pistorius trial live

"We will argue that the accused's version should be rejected," Mr Nel told the North Gauteng High Court. "The court should have no difficulty in rejecting his full version of events, not only as not reasonably possibly true, but in essence as being absolutely devoid of any truth."

If his evidence is rejected, as the prosecution hopes, judge Thokozile Masipa will only be able to consider the state's case, circumstantial evidence and the balance of probabilities in her verdict, which could see Pistorius sentenced to life in prison.

The prosecution's case is that an enraged Pistorius grabbed his gun and intentionally shot his girlfriend through a locked toilet door with intention to kill, knowing full well she was inside and there was no intruder in the house, following a heated argument in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.

Presenting his closing arguments, Mr Nel  described Pistorius as a witness who was more "concerned about the implications of his answers" than giving a "truthful version", highlighting that Pistorius himself admitted he was "defending for his life" in his testimony.

"That's why the mendacity was so striking," he added. "The accused was tailoring the version and was more concerned with the implications of his answers than the truth."

 

In his testimony, Pistorius, who would often break down in tears and loud sobs, told the court he shot his girlfriend after hearing "movement" as he approached the bathroom area, which led him to believe "someone was coming out to attack me".

In cross-examination, he insisted he fired accidentally, departing from his original defence that he had shot at the door in self-defence because he thought his life was in danger.

"The accused never said to anyone that got to the scene: It was an accident. The shot just went off", the chief prosecutor added. "He said: 'I thought it was a burglar and I shot her. Sorry, I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder."

Video: Final arguments begin in Pistorius trial

Mr Nel also argued his legal team failed to provide evidence and test results, including sound and vision, that would back up Pistorius's version and suggested its own expert witnesses had contradicted the defence's case at times.

"The defence failed to call any witnesses to substantiate his version, " Mr Nel added. "The question is why?"

The prosecutor went on to list what he described as objective facts: Reeva Steenkamp was fully clothed when she was shot, had locked herself inside the toilet cubicle and taken her mobile phone with her, adding: "If his version is rejected, those are the facts the court will find and make inferences from."

Throughout the trial, the prosecution has portrayed Pistorius as a gun-loving, possessive young man with an inflated ego who would often snap at friends, family and romantic partners, citing the testimony of a former girlfriend who claimed Pistorius shouted at her and text messages between the athlete and Ms Steenkamp, where she wrote: "I'm scared of you."

Pistorius is accused of murdering the model and law graduate in his upscale home in Pretoria on Valentine's Day last year. He also faces three separate charges, including two counts of discharging firearms in public and possession of illegal ammunition. He denies all charges and claims he shot Ms Steenkamp by mistake, thinking there was a burglar.

Pistorius faces a mandatory life sentence which usually carries a minimum of 25 years in jail if found guilty of premeditated murder, though mitigation could reduce it in this case. If found guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide, he could face 15 years or a non-custodial sentence. Pistorius is currently free on bail.

South Africa does not have trial by jury, meaning the athlete's fate will be decided by judge Masipa, with the help of two assessors.

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