Oscar Pistorius’s three-day cross-examination reached a dramatic climax on Friday when a prosecutor challenged the double-amputee sprinter repeatedly as to why his girlfriend failed to scream when she was shot four times through a toilet door.
In an electric exchange in Pretoria High Court, Gerrie Nel, one of South Africa’s top attorneys, said it was beyond belief that 29-year-old graduate-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 Feb 14, 2013 — a central pillar of his defence.
However, under withering questioning, the 27-year-old 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 screams before and during a volley of shots.
“She’s awake. She’s in the toilet. You’re shouting. You’re screaming. You’re 3 m away. 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 continued. “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, he 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.”
“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,” he retorted.
“No, you said, Mr Pistorius, she never screamed. You couldn’t hear. You’re just saying that,” Nel said.
“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.”
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