Oscar Pistorius Says He Never Picked On Reeva Steenkamp

By: Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Faith Karimi (CNN)--
By: Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Faith Karimi (CNN)--

(CNN) -- Oscar Pistorius said he never picked on girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and said at his murder trial Thursday that he didn't get a chance to tell her that he loved her before she died.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel picked apart message exchanges between the couple, accusing the athlete of screaming at his girlfriend and acting selfishly toward her.

Messages between the couple showed the athlete unfairly criticized her and disregarded her feelings, Nel said. But Pistorius denied it.

'I didn't treat her badly," he said.

Asked if Steenkamp had lied when she said he picked on her incessantly, Pistorius replied: "She never lied."

The double-amputee track star later added: "Reeva was never scared of me."

Nel bluntly 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.

"You were strong enough in that relationship to say stop your voices, stop your accents, stop chewing gum," the prosecutor said. But Pistorius said he gently told her to stop chewing gum before they got on camera.

Nel said Pistorius never responded to Steenkamp's message in which she said, "I'm the girl who fell in love with you."

"We did a search ... the phrase 'I love you' appears twice on her phone, to her mother," the prosecutor said. "Apart from 'boo boo, baa, baa' you never wrote a long message to Reeva."

"Because it was all about Mr. Pistorius," Nel said.

More cross-examination

The Olympic sprinter was back on the stand Thursday for further cross-examination in his murder trial after a day of relentless and combative questioning. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and said he mistakenly shot Steenkamp at his house on Valentine's Day last year, thinking she was an intruder.

"I remember pulling the trigger and the rounds going into the door," he told the court when asked about the night he shot and killed Steenkamp. "I did not fire deliberately."

Earlier, the athlete said he would like to meet Steenkamp's parents to apologize.

"I don't think they will ever want to meet me," he said. "I am terribly sorry that I took the life of their daughter."

Nel questioned Pistorius about a shooting incident at Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013, about which the athlete said he did not discharge a firearm.

"The firearm discharged. I was trying to make it safe," he said.

Pistorius said he repeatedly took the blame for the incident, but the prosecutor tried to poke holes in his declaration.

"This is incredible. You never touched the trigger, the gun went off. You took the blame, you took responsibility, but no one remembers," Nel said.

The prosecutor also tackled an ammunition charge Pistorius faces -- namely the illegal possession of ammunition -- related to ammunition found in Pistorius' safe when police searched his house after Steenkamp was killed.

Throughout the blunt and aggressive questioning, Pistorius looked ahead at the judge as Nel told him he doesn't "want to take responsibility."

'You shot and killed her. Say it'

Nel then went back to question the athlete about the night of the killing -- from when the couple had dinner together to moments before Pistorius shot Steenkamp about eight hours later.

The athlete told the court he did not see his girlfriend get out of bed moments before he says he mistook her for an intruder.

"I didn't see her get up -- my back was facing the room," he said. "It was pitch black."

A day before, a defiant Nel barked at the Olympic star on the stand.

"You shot and killed her. Say it -- 'I shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp,' " Nel told Pistorius on the first day of cross-examination.

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.

The 27-year-old has admitted to the killing, but he said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder in the bathroom when he fired through the door and killed her.

Before Nel went after Pistorius, defense lawyer Barry Roux had tossed his client a question to drive that argument home. He asked Pistorius if he intentionally killed Steenkamp.

"I did not intend to kill Reeva or anybody else for that matter," he replied.

'Zombie stopper'

Nel took the defense team by surprise Wednesday when he asked the athlete about a shooting range video in which Pistorius is seen firing at a watermelon, and then calling the impact "a zombie stopper."

This prompted the defense to complain that the prosecution was staging an "ambush" by introducing evidence. The court was briefly adjourned as Judge Thokozile Masipa considered both positions. The defense later said it would not object to the video being shown in court.

"It makes me very upset to hear myself saying something like that," Pistorius said as he admitted to making the comment. But he insisted he was referring "to a zombie, not a human being."

Nel showed the court a graphic photo of Steenkamp's wounded head. Speaking of the watermelon in the video, the prosecutor said: "It exploded. You know the same happened to Reeva?"

Pistorius snapped, sobbing. "I was there, I don't have to look at a picture," he said.

Gripping trial

Pistorius has told the court what he remembered from the night Steenkamp died, starting with the moment he opened his bathroom door after shooting through it and saw her bloodied body.

On Tuesday, he described tearfully how, gripped by fear, he shot Steenkamp dead through the locked toilet door, thinking she was an intruder.

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.

'I'm obsessed with looking at him'

The athlete said he would like to meet Steenkamp's parents but understood that they wouldn't want to.

"I don't think they will ever want to meet me," he said. "I am terribly sorry that I took the life of their daughter."

Steenkamp's mother, June, has sat in court throughout Pistorius' four days on the stand.

In an interview with the UK's Mirror newspaper, she said she is still trying to decide whether the sprinter is acting as he defends himself against the murder charge.

"I look at Oscar the whole time, to see how he is coping, how he is behaving. I'm obsessed with looking at him, it's just instinctive, I can't explain it," she said.

"I keep thinking, 'let me see how he's taking this.' He has been very dramatic, the vomiting and crying."

Talking about Pistorius' apology this week, she said: "It left me unmoved. I knew it was coming. My lawyers had prepared me for it."

"I cried for the first time, 'Yes,' but not because he apologized, because of the suffering and agony that my darling daughter went through and because I will never have her again."

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

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

CNN's Richard Allen Greene, Brent Swails, Emily Smith and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.


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