Oscar Pistorius told the Pretoria High Court today that the last meal he shared with Reeva was chicken stir-fry with vegetables that she cooked. He said they ate the meal about eight hours before her alleged murder and that she definitely did not eat again. The prosecution maintains the autopsy report proves she ate as little as two hours before her death, while the defense maintains it could have been up to eight hours or more, and that there is no scientific way to prove this either way.
Today was Pistorius’ third day in court, and his second under cross-examination by State prosecutor, Advocate Gerrie Nel (above), nicknamed the bulldog. Nel repeatedly accused him of lying and said his version of what happened on Valentine’s Day last year was “so improbable nobody would ever think it was probable.”
Pistorius was composed for most of the day, though there were several occasions when his voice began to quaver and he became tearful. He became particularly emotional towards the end of the court day when Nel pushed him on points of whether he had done things deliberately or by accident. He told the court he was “getting confused between accidentally and not accidentally.” He said he had not intended to shoot whoever was in the toilet cubicle in the early hours of February 14, 2013. He had pointed his gun at the door and “did not have time to think. It was an accident.”
This morning’s cross-examination began with questions from Nel relating to WhatsApp messages between Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. After challenging Pistorius about his motivation for apologizing to the Steenkamp family publicly in court, Nel then questioned the accused Paralympian about the gun and ammunition related incidents that form the three lesser charges. Then he switched back to the fatal shooting, covering everything from what happened earlier in the evening to the sequence of the shots that killed Reeva. The last meal Oscar and Reeva ate together before the alleged murder was the topic of questioning early this afternoon. It was the first time the chicken stir-fry meal they ate together has been mentioned.
WhatsApp Messages Between Oscar and Reeva
Nel hit off the day in court by telling Pistorius that because he killed Reeva, he was “the only person who can tell us the truth” about what happened on Valentine’s Day 2013. He asked Pistorius to describe their relationship in January and February of last year, and when told that it marked a “difference,” said he had “also noticed this.” It was during this period, said Nel, that there were arguments, all of which were about “you,” meaning Pistorius.
Nel revealed that the prosecution had searched all the couple’s WhatsApp messages for the phrase “I love you,” and said it appeared only twice, both in messages from Reeva to her mother. In response, Pistorius maintained that he “never got the opportunity” to tell his beautiful model girlfriend that he loved her, and pressed the point that he preferred to talk to her rather than send text messages.
Nel also questioned Pistorius carefully on every phrase of the WhatsApp message Reeva sent him that began “I’m not 100% sure why I’m sitting down to type you a message.” The message included these phrases:
- You have picked on me incessantly
- Yesterday wasn’t nice for either of us
- I was not flirting with anyone today
- We are living a double standard relationship
- I’m scared of u sometimes
- I know u certainly aren’t happy and I am certainly very unhappy and sad
Pistorius denied having picked on Reeva incessantly and maintained her feelings were simply a result of her being hurt. He said they had argued before she wrote the message and he realized that “her back was up against the wall and she took offence.” He admitted to brushing her off in public, but denied ever having shouted and screamed at her.
Nel examined every phrase in detail, questioning Pistorius on what each phrase meant and what had happened. He accused Pistorius of continually maintaining that nothing was his “fault.”
The Public Apology by Pistorius to the Steenkamps
Gerrie Nel challenged Pistorius about his motivation for apologizing to the Steenkamps when he took the stand at his trial. He wanted to know why he had created “a spectacle in court” and apologized in “the public domain,” rather than doing this personally. Pistorius said that his legal counsel had approached the Steenkamp family about him making an apology, and had been told that they were not ready.
Nel, who maintained throughout the day that Pistorius was unable to “take responsibility” for anything, then read the apology. While Pistorius had said that he was sorry for their sorrow and emptiness, and for taking their daughter’s life, at no time, said Nel, had he said, “I am sorry I killed her.”
In response Pistorius said, “
I am terribly sorry that I took the life of their daughter.”
Nel’s line of questioning was similar for the three firearm-related charges, and he accused Pistorius of gross negligence and a refusal to take responsibility for anything he had done. He also stated that he could not understand why Pistorius had pleaded not guilty to these charges that he is so obviously guilty of.
At Tasha’s restaurant Pistorius allegedly fired a gun that belonged to his friend – now State witness Darren Fresco – after it had been passed to him under the table. While Pistorius agreed that the incident was negligent, he maintained it was largely Fresco’s “fault” for passing him a gun that was not safe (because it was “one up”). He also insisted he had not pulled the trigger and said the gun had just gone off on its own. Even when presented with evidence that this was impossible, and that this particular gun would only fire if the trigger was pulled, he argued his innocence.
On the illegal ammunition charge, Pistorius said it belonged to his father and he understood he could legally store it for him. He also admitted that he kept an extra magazine for his own gun in his bedside table most of the time. Accusing him of negligence as the owner of a firearm, Nel said, “If I told you it was illegal would you change your plea?” Pistorius said he would not, because it would not be a simple decision and he would have to sit with his legal team first and discuss the matter. He also admitted that he had made no attempt to contact his father about the ammunition he was storing. He said he was not aware of the fact that his father had refused to sign a statement that would say the ammunition in fact belonged to him (and not Oscar). The explanation was that there was “no communication” between him and his father.
The third charge relates to an allegation that Pistorius shot through the open sunroof of a car after he and friends (ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor and Fresco) had been boating on the Vaal River. Questioned by Nel, Pistorius said he was “usually armed,” had his gun on him “at all times” and “most of the time” (for his own safety) and that it was loaded and “one-up” while they were on the boat on the Vaal River. When he went for a swim, he conceded that he left the gun on a towel on the boat unattended, but said he did not believe that this was negligent.
On their way back to Pretoria, Fresco (who was the driver), Pistorius and Taylor, were stopped by the traffic police for speeding. Pistorius admitted that he had been “agitated” because a policeman had picked the gun off the seat of the car, thrown the magazine down, and because “a bullet fell under the seat.” He was forced to get out of the car to find the bullet, he said, and the policeman was “aggressive.”
Earlier State evidence covers the incident in which Taylor and Fresco say Pistorius fired through the open sun roof of the car a short while after the police had stopped them.
That is a lie, that story was fabricated. Oscar Pistorius
Eventually, adding to the admission that he always carried a gun for his own safety, Pistorius also admitted that he normally carries it with a full magazine, and usually with a bullet “one up.”
Valentine’s Day 2013
Having been at pains to ensure that he asked the accused to give evidence about what he remembered rather than a “reconstructed” version of events, Nel tackled the way the four deadly shots were fired through the toilet door. In spite of the fact that Barry Roux had referred to “double tap” shots, Pistorius said that he fired “in quick succession.” While he could not remember how many shots he had fired, he said that he later discovered it was four.
This was the point in cross-examination that Pistorius once again became extremely emotional. He said he “never meant to pull the trigger,” and so it was an accident. He also said, “I didn’t have time to thing about it.” He did not even have time to “think of whether I wanted to shoot them or not.” This was just before the lunch break: “I did not intend to shoot. I pointed at the door. I didn’t have time to think. It was an accident.” Then he dissolved into tears.
When the court resumed at 2 pm, Nel reiterated that he wanted Pistorius to say what he remembered rather than what he had “reconstructed.” This was when he described how Reeva had made chicken stir-fry for their last meal before her alleged murder. It was also when he said that he never meant to pull the trigger and could not even remember pulling the trigger. He went on to describe what happened just prior to the shooting, only to be told by Nel that it was all “a lie.”
By Penny Swift