The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has accused the Olympic athlete of egotistical behaviour in his relationship with Reeva Steenkamp before he killed her, and described Pistorius’s courtroom apology to his girlfriend’s family as an insincere spectacle that ignored the feelings of her relatives.
“Your life is just about you,” the prosecutor Gerrie Nel said on a second day of cross-examination of Pistorius, who fatally shot Steenkamp through a closed toilet door at his home in the early hours of 14 February 2013. Pistorius says he shot Steenkamp by accident, mistaking her for a dangerous intruder. The prosecution says he intentionally killed her after an argument.
Nel asserted that Pistorius was sometimes mean to Steenkamp, pressing him about her objection to him playing a song by the rapper Kendrick Lamar on a car stereo. Pistorius referred to the song in a text message to Steenkamp that acknowledged her objections and has been included as evidence in the trial.
The prosecutor asked if the name of the song was Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, but Pistorius said he couldn’t remember the specific song. Nel responded that Steenkamp would have been right to take offence.
A phone message from Steenkamp to Pistorius that was shown in court includes the line: “You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other bitch you may know trying to kill your vibe.”
Nel’s tough questioning was designed to counter earlier testimony in which Pistorius said he loved Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, and was trying to protect her when he shot her without realising, according to his account, that she was in the toilet.
Two contrasting images of the runner have emerged in court: the defence-led image of Pistorius as a contrite man who had been worried about crime and made a terrible mistake on the night he killed Steenkamp, and the prosecution’s depiction of him as an overbearing egotist who was obsessed with firearms.
Nel referred to a shooting incident at Tashas restaurant in Johannesburg in which a shot went off after a friend of the runner passed him a loaded gun under the table. Pistorius, who faces a separate charge of firing a gun in a public place because of that episode as well as two other firearms charges, said he did not have his finger on the trigger when the gun fired. This happened about a month before Pistorius killed Steenkamp.
The prosecutor noted that a police expert had testified that the gun could not be fired without pulling the trigger, and sarcastically described the discharge as a “miracle”.
“We have you in possession of the gun, a shot went off, but you didn’t discharge the gun,” Nel said incredulously of the athlete’s account.
Turning to the relationship between Pistorius and Steenkamp, Nel said he had checked all of her text messages on her mobile phone and that the phrase “I love you” appeared only twice. On both occasions, he said, the words were written by Steenkamp to her mother.
“Never to you and you never to her,” Nel said, addressing Pistorius.
“I never got the opportunity to tell Reeva that I loved her,” Pistorius said in a soft voice. He did not look at Nel while replying to the prosecutor’s questions, instead directing his gaze to Judge Thokozile Masipa.
Masipa will deliver a verdict because there is no jury system in South Africa. Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted on a premeditated murder charge.