A video showing Oscar Pistorius shooting a watermelon that explodes on impact was shown in the Pretoria High Court today after the prosecutor in his murder trial, Gerrie Nel had asked him what “a zombie stopper” was. In the video, produced by Sky News and published on YouTube, he is heard saying, “It’s a lot softer than brain but f*** it feels like a zombie stopper.”
Having said in response to the zombie stopper question that he had no idea what it was, Nel asked Pistorius if he would be surprised to see people shooting watermelons and using that term. Pistorius said he would be surprised, and when asked if he would like to see the video, replied that he would. Defense advocate, Barry Roux immediately leapt up and accused Nel of an “ambush,” maintaining he was introducing new evidence during cross-examination.
After a short argument by the two lawyers, Judge Thokozile Masipa said she believed that both had a point and adjourned the court case so that the defense could watch the video. Back in court, Roux said they would accept the showing of the video provided it was only used for purposes of cross-examination, not entered as evidence, and did not set a precedent.
The video, inserted below, was shown to the point of the zombie stopper comment. Pistorius admitted he had seen it previously but maintained he did not remember the words “zombie stopper,” even though he confirmed that it was he who said, “It’s a lot softer than brain but f*** it feel’s like a zombie stopper.” He said it was not him laughing loudly in the background.
The commentary in the video states that Pistorius was firing his “9 mm pistol, the same gun he kept under his bed, and which he used to kill Reeva Steenkamp.” In evidence Pistorius said it was in fact a .50 caliber handgun that he had bought and applied for a license for, but had never taken possession of. He said the gun was made by an American company and was intended for trail walking, for self-protection against animals. The bullets it used were a much bigger caliber than Black Talon ammunition, he said.
Nel then drew attention to the fact that the watermelon (“softer than brain”) had exploded when Oscar Pistorius shot at it. The same thing happened to Reeva’s head, he told Pistorius as a horrifically graphic, full-screen photograph of Reeva Steenkamp’s shattered head was shown to the court and television viewers at home. He demanded Pistorius “take responsibility” and look at the photograph that showed how a “zombie stopper” had exploded her head.
Pistorius, visibly shaken, with his voice breaking, insisted he had “taken responsibility” since he had been “waiting for my time on this stand to tell my story for the respect of Reeva.” But he said he would not look at a photograph that showed what he is now “tormented by.” He was there that night, he said, and did not need to look at a picture to remember how, as he picked Reeva up to carry her downstairs, his fingers touched her (shattered) head.
Roux challenged Nel saying it was “extremely unfair to say that is the same thing as a watermelon,” and accused Nel of “unfair questioning.” The judge agreed and asked the court to remove the picture from the screen. Both Pistorius and his sister Aimee were extremely distressed, and the court was adjourned for a while.
Eyewitness News journalist, Mandy Weiner tweeted she had never witnessed “such an emotive, harrowing exchange in a courtroom. It lingers. Twitter doesn’t quite suffice.” Her colleague, Barry Bateman, who was one of the first reporters on the crime scene after the murder, tweeted that it was not unusual for an accused to be shown photographs of the deceased, however it was “not always in this dramatic manner.” The two journalists have been commissioned by Pan Macmillan to co-author Behind The Door: The Oscar and Reeva Story to be published once the trial is over.
Earlier in the day Roux had completed his questioning of the accused, and Pistorius had described how he found Reeva in the toilet, bleeding badly and struggling to breathe. Breathing loudly and choking back his tears, he said he “felt helpless.” He said he got her downstairs and she died while he was holding her. He also explained how he needed to wash his hands because the smell of blood on them made him want to throw up, and how he wanted to take off his clothes because they were stained (presumably with the blood of Reeva.) He said he spent most of the time sitting on the floor or the kitchen pantry crying, and then in the garage, until the police took him to be examined at a hospital in Mamelodi, Johannesburg.
Roux had him demonstrate the action he used to smash the toilet door with a cricket bat. He also questioned him about kicking the door with his prosthetic leg and asked him to show the court how high he could kick. He confirmed that he had fired the gun when he was on his stumps, and announced, “I did not intend to kill Reeva or anybody else for that matter!”
Starting cross-examination Gerrie Nel painted a picture of the worldwide sports hero everybody looks up to. In response Pistorius said he knew people looked up to him in the past, but that he had not being checking media reports recently. “I made a terrible mistake,” he told Nel. In response Nel said, “You made a mistake? You killed a person – you killed Reeva Steenkamp that’s what you did,” trying to force him to say he had shot and killed her. “Say it,” said Nel, “say I shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.”
“I did Milady,” was all Pistorius would say.
“I did Milady.” – Oscar Pistorius
After the recess that followed screening of Reeva’s fatally injured head, Nel continued his questioning about the watermelon video, repeating Pistorius’s comment that it was softer than brain. He asked why they had rigged up video cameras to record the damage that could be done by shooting wood and watermelons with the so-called “zombie stopper.” Oscar Pistorius said that at the time he enjoyed handling firearms and enjoyed shooting. Someone had suggested shooting a watermelon, but he said he did not at any time try to compare shooting into this to shooting into a human brain. “The comments I made were distasteful, but they were in reference to a zombie and not a human being,” he said.
By Penny Swift