Gerrie Nel started his cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius by introducing a Sky News video of the athlete mentioning a zombie stopper after shooting a watermelon to pulp. The court was again briefly adjourned when Pistorius broke down after refusing to look at photo of Reeva Steenkamp’s head wounds.
After Judge Masipa ended proceedings on Tuesday afternoon when defence barrister Barry Roux said he could not â€œresponsibly ask the court to carry on” due to Pistorius’s anguished emotional state during his description of finding Reeva Steenkamp’s body, they resumed this morning with Pistorius picking up his story at the point at which he broke down the bathroom door. Pistorius today described how he â€œchecked to see if she was breathing and she wasn’t.” He then â€œsat there crying for some time” before realising he â€œthought (he) could hear her breathing.”
“I placed her head down softly on the carpet. I saw that her cell phone was in the toilet so I tried to call someone but it had a pass-code on it that I couldn’t access,” Pistorius said. “I ran back to my bedroom to where my phone was next to the bed. Both my phones were there. I picked them up and ran back to Reeva.” He then called Johan Stander, a friend and neighbour on the estate, and then phoned 911. Pistorius said: â€œI don’t recall speaking to the operator but I can remember him telling me that I needed to get Reeva to the hospital… At that point I was screaming and shouting to get him to help me get her to hospital.”
Describing his attempts to break the bathroom door down with the cricket bat, Pistorius said: “I don’t remember how close I was standing to the door. I hit the door with all my might. The amount of force I was swinging the bat with I don’t think any of the hits would have been similar.”
With regards to the noises that neighbours say they heard, Pistorius said that â€œthe three sounds would have been the cricket bat hitting the door” and that there were five minutes between the sounds of shots and cricket bat on door. In response to claims that there was less time between the noises, Pistorius said: “It physically can’t be that amount of time, my lady. If you look at the times the calls were made and many other facts points to five minutes.”
Pistorius described how the police then arrived and â€œa police officer came up to me and introduced himself. He told me he was a friend of a family member of mine and that I didn’t have anything to worry about. That he was there to look after me. It was at that point they said because I was the only person in the house that they were going to charge me.” Pistorius then described being told he was under arrest and being taken away in the police car.
Roux ended the defence’s interrogation by asking Pistorius whether at any point he intended to kill Steenkamp, to which the athlete replied: â€œI did not intend to kill Reeva or anyone else.” Meanwhile, BBC correspondent Andrew Harding was told by a Pistorius family source that the athlete’s description yesterday of the shooting was the â€œfirst time” he’s managed to speak of it to them.
After a brief adjournment, Nel began his cross-examination of Pistorius by asking him whether he knew what a â€œzombie stopper” was. Pistorius replied that he did not but Nel then referred to a video shown on Sky News showing Pistorius practising shooting at a range using the 9mm firearm that he used to kill Steenkamp. In the video the athlete can be heard saying in reference to a water-melon exploding when shot: â€œIt’s a lot softer than brain but s*** it’s like a zombie stopper.”
After a brief disagreement regarding whether the video should be shown in court – with Roux arguing that the law does not allow the state to introduce evidence that is not part of the case but eventually being over-ruled by Judge Masipa – the video was shown after an adjournment to allow discussion between Pistorius and Roux. The clip also features Francois Hougaard, the rugby player romantically linked with Steenkamp around the same time as she was dating Pistorius.
With regards to Pistorius’ use of the words â€œbrain” and â€œzombie”, Nel followed the video by suggesting that Pistorius was referring to the shooting of a human being and that he shot the water-melon to see what impact the ammunition would have on a human brain. Pistorius vehemently denied this, saying: “The comments I made on that day were distasteful but they related to zombies, not human beings.”
Nel then showed the shocked court a photo of Steenkamp’s bleeding head after she had been shot, saying to Pistorius, â€œI know you don’t want to see it but it’s time to take responsibility,” to which the athlete replied: â€œI don’t have to look at the picture – I was there.” With Pistorius sobbing and visibly shaken, court was again adjourned to give him time to recover his composure and Pistorius left the court room with his visibly angry psychologist who was shaking her head. Mandy Wiener, a journalist with South Africa’s Eyewitness News, tweeted: â€œI don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such an emotive, harrowing exchange in the courtroom.”
After the adjournment, Nel questioned Pistorius about discrepancies between his bail application and his plea explanation, specifically whether he went onto the balcony or not to the collect the fan having woken at 3am and whether there was one or two fans. Mr pistorius conceded that his account says he went onto the balcony despite not having done so, and also said: “Some of it is a reconstruction from some of the statements that I have read. I can’t remember how much time certain things took me. I’ve spoken about what I can remember.”