UK & World News

  • 9 April 2014, 6:44

Oscar Pistorius To Be Grilled By 'The Pit Bull'

After two harrowing days in the witness box, things are about to get even tougher for Oscar Pistorius under cross-examination.

Canine metaphors abound when it comes to the man who will lead the interrogation.

Advocate Gerrie Nel is known as the "pit bull" prosecutor in South Africa, and he has bared his fangs at plenty of high-profile defendants in his career.

Mr Nel is famed for securing the conviction for corruption of the country's former police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, whose defence crumbled during a marathon eight days of cross examination.

Pistorius' ordeal might be shorter, but it certainly will not be sweet.

How the athlete, who has frequently broken down giving evidence even under the gentle guidance of his own lawyers, will cope must be of serious concern to his defence team.

Pistorius wept uncontrollably when he described the moment he realised he had shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.

The trial had to be adjourned several times because of the athlete's emotional state.

During the cross-examination, Mr Nel will likely ask him to relive the shooting time and again, testing the credibility of every detail of his account.

The state is trying to prove the athlete killed Miss Steenkamp deliberately - that it was a case of "pre-meditated murder".

The key to securing a conviction is "intent".

So Mr Nel will have a barrage of questions ready.

What was Pistorius thinking as he fired through the locked toilet door?

Why did he fire four shots when he must have known they would likely to be fatal to anyone behind the door?

How could he have failed to notice his girlfriend was not in the bed when he grabbed his gun from beneath it?

Pistorius' defence is that he was terrified for his own life and Miss Steenkamp's when he opened fire.

He also felt particularly vulnerable as a double amputee who was on his stumps at the time.

Mr Nel will seek to chip away at this claim of "self-defence" because it relies on an imagined threat - not a direct one - an intruder that never was.

Even if the prosecutor fails to convince the judge there was "intent" he may still be able to prove a lesser charge of "culpable homicide", by showing the athlete acted "unreasonably" and was negligent when he opened fire.

The outcome of this whole trial will likely turn on the answers Pistorius, already exhausted and emotional, gives under cross-examination over the coming days.