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With his head in his hands, Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday sensationally refused a prosecutor’s taunt to look at the photograph of his late girlfriend’s bloodied, shattered skull, shouting tearfully: “I won't look at that picture. I remember! I was THERE!”
On day 19 of the Olympian’s murder trial, prosecutor Gerrie Nel wasted no time in attacking the Olympian as he began his eagerly-anticipated cross examination of Pistorius over the death of Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius spent the first hour in courtdemonstrating to the court how Ms Steenkamp died in his arms.
But then chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel got to his feet, and began by asking Pistorius to agree he was one of the most “recognised faces in the world” and “a model for disabled sportsmen and able-bodied sportsmen, all over the world”.
“I think I was, my lady, until that terrible mistake,” he replied.
Mr Nel seized on the word “mistake”.
“You killed a person, that’s what you did, isn’t it? You killed Reeva Steenkamp, that's what you did?”
Pistorius repeated the phrase, and Mr Nel asked him to explain what that “mistake” had been.
“My mistake was that I took Reeva’s life,” he said.
But the prosecutor, renowned for his cross-examination, was unsatisfied.
“You killed her, you shot and killed her. Won’t you take responsibility for that?”
Pistorius said he did, and Mr Nel continued: “Then say it then, say 'yes, I killed, I shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp'.”
“I did, my lady,” said Pistorius, crying.
He went on to say: “I am human I have many faults, I have sins, I believe I'm a sinner.”
But more drama was to follow, with Mr Nel moving to show a video clip, previously aired on Sky News in South Africa, in which the double-amputee is at a shooting range, firing bullets at watermelons.
When one of his shots hit a watermelon and caused it to explode, Pistorius can be heard saying, "It's a lot softer than brains" and "it's like a zombie stopper."
Then without warning, an image of Ms Steenkamp’s bloody skull flashed up on the screen as Mr Nel said: “You know that the same happened to Reeva's head? It exploded.”
Gasps echoed around the court as the images, which were also broadcast live on TV, brought the Olympian undone.
He wailed uncontrollably as he said he would not look at the picture.
He said he was “tormented by that” image.
“My fingers touched her head,” he said, crying. “I remember! I was there.”
Burying his head in his hands, he dissolved into sobs, as his barrister Barry Roux objected, saying the prosecutor had gone “too far”.
The court swiftly adjourned, as Pistorius was once more inconsolable.
His sister Aimee rushed to his side, shooting an angry and upset look in the direction of the prosecutor.
Ms Steenkamp’s mother June told reporters in the break she understood why the picture had to be shown, and had been warned about it in advance.
When the court resumed, Mr Nel returned to asking Pistorius about the watermelon incident, suggesting he “shot that firearm to see what the effect would be” of shooting someone in the head.
Pistorius denied the inference, saying the distasteful remark was about zombies.
Earlier, Pistorius battled against rising emotions as he resumed his testimony from Tuesday, describing how he carried the bloody body of his girlfriend downstairs after shooting her through a toilet door.
“I had my fingers in her mouth I was trying to help her breathe,” Pistorius said.
“I had my hand on her hip. I was trying to stop the bleeding.”
“She already died while I was holding her,” Pistorius said.
“Every time I looked up there were more people in the house, there were more policemen. I asked a policeman if I may wash my hands because the smell of the blood was making me throw up.”
Shortly before the lunch adjournment, Mr Nel began questioning Pistorius about discrepencies between the version he gave to his bail hearing in February 2013, shortly after the incident, his “plea explanation” from the beginning of the trial and his evidence.
Mr Nel asked if Pistorius had ever changed his version, and he said no.
“The state's case has changed many times, but [nothing they have come up with] have changed my version."
However, Mr Nel then began by focusing on the athlete’s assertion about bringing the fans in shortly before he heard a noise in the bathroom, suggesting he had tailored his version to suit the evidence.
The case continues.
The story Oscar Pistorius grilled by prosecutor: 'I believe I'm a sinner' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.