By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
and GERALD IMRAY
PRETORIA, South Africa — The chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, wrapping up five days of cross-examination Tuesday of the Olympian, insisted that he intentionally shot his girlfriend to death as they argued.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he had no further questions after presenting the prosecution's case that Pistorius is lying in his account of mistakenly shooting Reeva Steenkamp in the predawn hours of Valentine's Day last year. Nel said the double-amputee runner killed her intentionally after an argument.
In the adjournment after his cross-examination, Pistorius rubbed his eyes and briefly sank his head into the shoulder of a man who comforted him. He took a tissue from his sister Aimee, who squeezed his arm reassuringly. Shortly afterward, he listened attentively as Barry Roux, his chief lawyer, spoke to him in a low voice.
Throughout the grueling cross-examination, Nel accused Pistorius of "tailoring" evidence and "concocting" a story that he shot out of fear of an intruder in a toilet cubicle in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day last year.
Nel said the couple fought during the night and Steenkamp wanted to leave, then fled to the bathroom screaming before Pistorius shot her through the door with his 9 mm pistol. Pistorius said he never heard Steenkamp scream, or say anything in the minutes before he shot her.
The prosecutor even charged that Pistorius fired the four shots from about three meters (yards) away from Steenkamp as he was talking and arguing with Steenkamp, and changed his aim with later shots to ensure he hit her as she fell back. Nel's unrelenting questioning and accusations provoked many denials by Pistorius and caused the athlete to break down in sobs on numerous occasions.
The athlete says that he thought Steenkamp was an intruder about to come out of the toilet to attack him. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.
Over the past week, Pistorius came under intense pressure from Nel who accused the world-famous disabled athlete of lying in the witness box. Pistorius has struggled at times to explain alleged inconsistencies during his testimony.
Nel closed his cross-examination Tuesday by inviting Pistorius to take the blame for shooting Steenkamp, but the runner steered away from a direct response, saying only that he opened fire because he believed his life was under threat. That remark drew barbed follow-up questions from the prosecutor.
"We should blame somebody ... Should we blame Reeva?" asked Nel, who has harshly criticized Pistorius as someone who is unwilling to take responsibility.
"No, my lady," Pistorius replied, addressing the judge in line with court custom.
"She never told you she was going to the toilet," Nel said. Then he asked: "Should we blame the government?"
When Pistorius responded with another reference to a perceived attacker in his toilet, Nel asked: Who should we blame for the Black Talon rounds that ripped through her body?"
He abandoned his line of questioning soon after the judge questioned whether he was asking the same thing in a different way. Nel summed up by saying Pistorius intentionally killed Steenkamp.
Pistorius remained in the witness box while Roux asked him a series of follow-up questions.