In an electric exchange in the Pretoria High Court, Gerrie Nel,
one of South Africa's top attorneys, said it was beyond belief that
29-year-old law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp would have
remained silent in the tiny cubicle with an armed Pistorius shouting
and screaming in the adjoining bathroom.
Pistorius, who says he fired at what he thought was an intruder,
said Steenkamp did not scream at any point in the incident in the
early hours of February 14, 2013 — a central pillar of his defense.
However, under withering questioning, the 27-year-old track star was
forced to concede that he may not have heard her cries because of
his ears ringing from the first shot.
Several 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 meters from her. She would have responded.
She would not have been quiet, Mr Pistorius," Nel said.
"She didn't respond, my Lady," a clearly 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 Pistorius?"
After a brief silence to collect himself, 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?" Nel asked.
"I don't think I would have heard her."
"A gunshot went off, my ears were ringing," Pistorius said.
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"How can you exclude the fact she was screaming if you couldn't
hear?" Nel asked.
"If I couldn't hear it, then I couldn't hear," Pistorius retorted.
"No, you said, Mr Pistorius, she never screamed. You couldn't hear.
You're just saying that," Nel said.
"That is what I'm saying," Pistorius replied.
"No, that's not what you're saying. You're saying she didn't
scream," Nel followed up.
"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
Nel later followed up with his central accusation — that the couple
had an argument and Steenkamp fled to the toilet pursued by
Pistorius, who then shot her through the closed wooden door.
"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 denied it, his voice wavering with emotion, before the
court adjourned until Monday morning.
Pistorius faces life in prison if convicted of murder.
(Reporting by Ed Cropley and Joe Brock;
editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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