Pistorius’ testimony questioned in third day of cross-examination

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Oscar Pistorius

(CNN) — Oscar Pistorius faced another day of relentless cross-examination Friday as the prosecution challenged his account in the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has accused the athlete of hiding the truth about the death of Steenkamp, whom he shot last year through a closed toilet door in his home.

His questions Friday again sought to undermine Pistorius’ reliability and credibility.

More than an hour into the day’s session, Nel turned once more to the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year when the athlete killed Steenkamp.

Pistorius said that after getting up to close the balcony door and move fans inside, he heard the noise of the bathroom window sliding open and slamming into the frame.

Nel repeatedly asked him why he hadn’t at that point asked Steenkamp — who was awake — if she too had heard the noise.

Pistorius replied that he didn’t because he was sure about what he had heard. He said he whispered to Steenkamp to get down and call the police.

Nel asked if he had waited for a response, as would have been reasonable — pointing out his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor had testified he had done that on a previous occasion when he’d heard a noise.

“I never waited for a response … My whole body was fixated on the threat,” Pistorius answered.

Nel’s questions then focused on the position of certain items in the bedroom, including the duvet, the fans and a pair of jeans — all of which Pistorius contends were moved by the police.

The court was shown blown-up photographs of the items as Nel sought to argue that they do not support Pistorius’ version of events.

At one point, the judge reprimanded Nel over his questioning — known in South African legal circles for his bulldog like approach in court — and told him to mind his language.

More than once, Nel suggested that Pistorius’ difficulties in remembering what happened were because he had made things up.

Pistorius became emotional as the cross-examination continued, prompting Nel to ask him why.

“This is the night I lost the person that I cared about. I don’t know why people don’t understand that,” Pistoirus responded.

As he broke down in tears, the judge ordered a short break to allow him time to gather himself. The trial resumed a few minutes later.

Nel has previously accused Pistorius of becoming emotional when the questions get difficult.

No one disputes that Pistorius killed Steenkamp. But the prosecution is trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did so knowingly and intentionally.

Pistorius quizzed over mistakes

During cross-examination earlier Friday, Pistorius made mistakes in answering questions about repair work and his alarm system.

He attributed the mistakes to fatigue, prompting Nel to ask if he was too tired to continue in the stand.

Pistorius, becoming emotional, replied, “I don’t need time. I am tired, that’s not going to change.”

“With respect Mr. Pistorius, I’m not convinced … I think you’re trying to cover up for lies,” Nel said.

After Judge Thokozile Masipa pressed Pistorius on the question, the athlete said he wasn’t making mistakes because he was tired — prompting Nel to ask why, in that case, he was making mistakes.

A little later, Nel made a mistake while questioning Pistorius, who pointed it out. The prosecutor said Pistorius wasn’t too tired to highlight the mistakes the prosecutor himself was making in his questioning.

‘I’m the girl who fell in love with you’

A day earlier, the athlete denied he acted selfishly toward Steenkamp as Nel sought to portray him as an arrogant hothead who is reckless with guns.

In a bid to paint their relationship as rocky, he ripped apart message exchanges between the couple Thursday.

Nel highlighted an incident in which Steenkamp complained in a message that Pistorius asked her to stop chewing gum. He also read a message in which she defended herself against Pistorius’ accusations that she flirted at a party.

The prosecution challenged almost every aspect of the athlete’s credibility, including accusing him of lying that he killed his girlfriend by mistake on Valentine’s Day last year.

Nel sought to paint him as selfish, and demanded to know why the athlete did not respond to his girlfriend’s declaration of love.

“We did a search … the phrase ‘I love you’ appears twice on her phone, to her mother,” the prosecutor said.

Pistorius, he said, never responded to Steenkamp’s message in which she said, “I’m the girl who fell in love with you.”

But Pistorius said he preferred to talk to his girlfriend over the phone rather than messaging. He acknowledged he never got a chance to tell her that he loved her.

“Because it was all about Mr. Pistorius,” Nel said.

Different accounts

The runner has admitted to the killing, but said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder in the bathroom when he fired through the door and killed her.

The prosecution alleges Pistorius killed his girlfriend after they argued. Several witnesses have testified to hearing a man’s shouts coming from the house, although they have also spoken of the terrified screams of a woman leading up to and during a volley of shots.

The trial has gripped South Africa, where Pistorius is considered a symbol of triumph over physical adversity. His disabled lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, but he went on to achieve global fame as the “Blade Runner,” winning numerous Paralympic gold medals on the steel blades fitted to his prostheses.

Only those in the courtroom can see Pistorius because he has chosen not to testify on camera. His testimony can be heard on an audio feed.

The trial is scheduled to continue until the middle of May.

Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide the verdict in collaboration with two experts called assessors. South Africa does not have jury trials.