Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cross-examines Oscar Pistorius in the
North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. REUTERS/Themba
Oscar Pistorius' trial heard crucial testimony as a
prosecutor challenged the double-amputee sprinter over why his
girlfriend had failed to scream when he shot her four times
through a toilet door.
Gerrie Nel, one of South Africa's top attorneys, said it was
beyond belief that Reeva Steenkamp would have remained silent
in the cubicle with an armed Pistorius shouting and screaming
in the adjoining bathroom.
The prosecution alleges the 29-year-old model took refuge in
the toilet during an angry row with the athlete, and he then
shot her through the door.
Pistorius, who says he fired at what he thought was an
intruder, has testified that Steenkamp did not cry out during
the incident in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013.
However, under withering cross-examination from Nel - known
in South Africa as "The Pitbull" - the 27-year-old track star
was forced to concede he could not have heard whether she
screamed or not because his ears were ringing from the sound
People living nearby have testified to hearing a woman's
terrified screams before and during a volley of shots.
"She's awake. She's in the toilet. You're shouting. You're
screaming. You're three metres from her. She would have
responded. She would not have been quiet, Mr Pistorius," Nel
"She didn't respond, my Lady," an apparently distressed
Pistorius replied, addressing judge Thokozile Masipa.
"Did she scream at all whilst you shot her four times?" Nel
"No, my Lady."
"Are you sure? Are you sure, Mr Pistorius, that Reeva did not
scream after the first shot?" Nel continued. "Are you, Mr
After a brief silence, Pistorius said: "My Lady, I wish she
had let me know she was there."
"After you fired the first shot, did she scream?" Nel asked.
"No, my Lady."
"Are you sure? Would you have heard her?"
"I don't think I would have heard her."
"Exactly," Nel said.
"A gunshot went off. My ears were ringing," Pistorius said.
"How can you exclude the fact she was screaming if you
couldn't hear?" Nel asked.
Pistorius then 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."
Nels followed up with his central accusation - that the
couple had an argument and Steenkamp fled to the toilet
pursued by Pistorius, who shot her through the locked door.
Steenkamp was hit by three of the four 9 mm hollow-point
rounds Pistorius fired. A police ballistics expert has
testified that the first round hit her hip and the final one
her head, killing her almost instantly.
"You knew that Reeva went behind the door and you shot at
her," Nel said.
"You shot at her knowing she was behind the door."
Pistorius, who faces life in prison if convicted of murder,
denied it, his voice wavering with emotion, before the court
adjourned until Monday.
The trial, now 21 days old, has gripped South Africa and
millions of sports and athletics fans around the world who
have seen Pistorius as a symbol of triumph over physical
His disabled lower legs were amputated as a baby but, running
on carbon fibre prosthetic limbs, he went on to achieve
global fame as the "fastest man on no legs", winning numerous
Paralympic gold medals and reaching the semi-finals of the
400 metres in the 2012 London Olympics against able-bodied