Oscar Pistorius trial: Prosecutor Gerrie Nel queries tears

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Media captionPistorius trial day 20 - in 60 seconds

The prosecutor at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has suggested the South African athlete is using his emotions "as an escape".

He broke down in tears four times on Monday and has also vomited in court.

"Now you trying to be emotional and it's not working," said prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Mr Pistorius admits killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February last year, but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder.

Mr Nel said the Olympic sprinter, 27, had deliberately shot Ms Steenkamp, a model, after the couple had had an argument.

As the prosecutor resumed his cross-examination on Monday, he accused Mr Pistorius of "tailoring his evidence" as he went along to suit the defence case, which had been "concocted".

"Your version of events is untrue," Mr Nel said.

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Media captionBreaking down in tears, Oscar Pistorius said: ''I did not fire at Reeva''
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Image caption Mr Pistorius' sister Aimee (c) has been following the trial intently
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Image caption The athlete's fans greeted him with white balloons as he arrived in court on Monday

Shortly before the case adjourned for the day, Mr Nel said: "You're getting emotional now because you're getting frustrated because your version [of events] is improbable.

The prosecutor, known as "bull terrier" for his fierce style of questioning, then asked: "You're not using your emotional state as an escape are you?"

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in the South Africa capital Pretoria says Mr Nel spent much of the day trying to highlight apparent inconsistencies between Mr Pistorius' bail application and his evidence in court.

On one occasion, when Mr Pistorius corrected Mr Nel, the prosecutor said this showed Mr Pistorius was a "stickler for detail" and yet on many aspects of the case, the athlete was being vague.

'Changed aim'

Earlier, Mr Nel again pressed Mr Pistorius on the moment he shot Ms Steenkamp.

The athlete, a double amputee, said he had not intended to kill anyone.

"I fired out of fear," he said.

This prompted Mr Nel to say Mr Pistorius was changing his story from self-defence to saying he shot by accident.

The prosecutor said this was because the truth was: "You fired at Reeva."

"It's not true," Mr Pistorius replied, breaking into tears and prompting the court to briefly adjourn.

After the break, Mr Nel said that, as Mr Pistorius was trained to use firearms, the court could not accept he had fired by "mistake".

He also said that the athlete had changed his aim to hit Ms Steenkamp after she had fallen down when she was hit by the first bullet. This was denied by Mr Pistorius.

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Image caption The court was shown the toilet door, through which Mr Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp

The prosecutor said the fact that a pair of Ms Steenkamp's jeans was lying on the floor showed that she was in the middle of getting dressed in order to leave Mr Pistorius' house when she was shot after the couple had argued in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013.

This, too, was denied.

The sprinter also started sobbing as he recalled shouting at the burglars he thought were in his house.

When asked why he broke down, Mr Pistorius said: "I am traumatised" by the events of that night.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Oscar Pistorius had been going out with Reeva Steenkamp for three months

The prosecutor also pointed to forensic evidence that showed Ms Steenkamp had eaten within a couple of hours of her death.

The athlete says the couple had last eaten together about 19:00, some eight hours before she was shot.

Mr Pistorius says there was no row and they had a quiet evening together, before he woke up on hearing a noise in the bathroom.

Mr Nel said he would resume on Tuesday with a series of questions about the toilet.

Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream, but the defence disputes their testimony.

The Olympic sprinter faces life imprisonment if convicted of murdering the 29-year-old model and law graduate.

If he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

Mr Pistorius also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

  • ×

  • 1. Balcony

    × Balcony

    Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

    He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

  • 2. Bathroom window


    Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

    "Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

    Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

  • 3. Shooting


    Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

    Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

    He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

    Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.

    A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

  • 4. Bedroom


    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.

    Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.

  • 5. Toilet door


    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

    Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

  • 6. Emergency calls


    Mr Pistorius's defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

    A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.

    A minute later he received an incoming call - estate security calling him back.

    According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.

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