State prosecutor Gerrie Nel cross-examines Oscar Pistorius
during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in
Pretoria. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
A South African prosecutor has forced Oscar Pistorius to
look at a forensic photograph that showed the head of his
girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after it was blown open by a
hollow-point bullet fired by the Olympic and Paralympic track
In a dramatic opening to his cross-examination of Pistorius,
prosecutor Gerrie Nel made him admit he had killed Steenkamp
then later confronted him with the photograph showing the
side and back of her skull, her hair matted with blood and
"Have a look there. I know you don't want to because you
don't want to take responsibility," Nel said to gasps from
the packed public gallery.
"Take responsibility for what you have done," Nel persisted,
his voice rising almost to a shout.
Pistorius responded by burying his head in his hands in the
witness stand, rocking from side to side and weeping.
The double amputee sprinter, once revered across the world
for his triumph over adversity, faces life in prison if
convicted in the Pretoria High Court of the murder of
Steenkamp, a 29-year-old law graduate and model.
His defence hinges on his contention that he thought he was
firing at an intruder when he shot Steenkamp through a toilet
door in his luxury Pretoria home on Feb. 14 - Valentine's Day
- last year.
During the 18-day trial, Nel, renowned as one of South
Africa's toughest state attorneys with the nickname 'The
Pitbull', has sought to show the 27-year-old as a
Early in his questioning, he asked Pistorius if he knew what
a "zombie stopper" was, to which the defendant answered no.
After a brief adjournment, the court then viewed video
footage broadcast before the trial by Britain's Sky News of
Pistorius firing a .50 calibre handgun at a watermelon at a
As the melon disintegrates, Pistorius says off-camera: "It's
a lot softer than brains. But (bleep) it's like a zombie
Nel then pushed the track star, saying he had shot the melon
because he wanted to see what a bullet hitting a person's
head looked like.
"You know that the same happened to Reeva's head. It
exploded. I'm going to show you," he said, before projecting
the forensic photograph of Steenkamp's head on the court
Steenkamp was hit by three of four 9 mm rounds fired by
Pistorius through the toilet door. One hit her behind the
right ear, killing her almost instantly, pathologists had
earler told the court.
Pistorius acknowledged responsibility but refused to lift his
"I don't have to look at a picture. I was there," he said.
Television stations carrying the feed from the court
apologised to viewers as the graphic image was broadcast
With no direct witnesses, Nel's main task is to pick holes in
Pistorius' testimony and cast doubt on his statements about a
perceived burglar, a common fear in crime-obsessed South
Crucially, he forced Pistorius to concede that he did not go
out on to the balcony in the middle of the hot and humid
night to bring two fans inside - the instant during which, he
said in a sworn affidavit submitted at his bail hearing, that
he believed Steenkamp went to the toilet without him
"You can't get away, Mr. Pistorius," Nel said.
Pistorius was forced to concede: "My memory isn't very good
at the moment."
Earlier, he described his frantic attempts to revive
Steenkamp after he found her lying barely alive on the toilet
floor and how she had died minutes later in his arms, her
blood pouring over his body.
"I checked to see if she was breathing and she wasn't," he
said. "I could feel the blood was running down on me."
After several attempts, he managed to carry Steenkamp down
stairs where neighbours tried to administer first aid before
But Pistorius said he knew that Steenkamp - with whom he said
he was planning to buy a house - was already dead.
"Reeva, Reeva had already died whilst I was holding her,
before the ambulance arrived, so I knew there was nothing
they could do for her."