PRETORIA, South Africa - The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Thursday accused the Olympic athlete of egotistical behaviour in his relationship with Reeva Steenkamp before he killed her, and described Pistorius' courtroom apology to his girlfriend's family as an insincere “spectacle” that ignored the feelings of her relatives.
“Your life is just about you,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said on a second day of cross-examination of Pistorius, who fatally shot Steenkamp through a closed toilet cubicle of his home in the early hours of Feb. 14, 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's tough questioning in the court in the South African city of Pretoria 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 realizing, according to his account, that she was in the toilet cubicle.
Two contrasting images of the double-amputee 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 said he had checked all of Steenkamp's text messages on her cellular telephone and that the phrase “I love you” appeared only twice in those missives. On both occasions, he said, they 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 on the dais.
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.
Nel also accused Pistorius of ignoring the concerns of Steenkamp's family by apologizing to them at the beginning of his testimony this week, rather than seeking to express his condolences in private. Steenkamp's mother, June, has attended court sessions this week.
“Why would you create a spectacle in court, in the public domain, in the public eye,” Nel said. “Why did you put them through this?”
Pistorius said his lawyers had been in touch with representatives of Steenkamp's family, and that he had believed the family of his girlfriend was not ready to meet him.
“I completely understand where they're coming from,” he said. “It's not that I haven't thought about them.”