Pistorius trial: Roux strikes back

The defence began its closing arguments in the North Gauteng High Court this afternoon.

Oscar Pistorius leaves the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on 7 August 2014. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Defence advocate Barry Roux has accused the state of purposefully ignoring significant facts to incriminate murder accused Oscar Pistorius.

Roux started his closing argument in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria this afternoon and the matter has now been adjourned until tomorrow.

The Paralympic and Olympic athlete is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria East home on Valentine's Day last year.

The double amputee says he shot his model girlfriend by accident after mistaking her for an intruder while the state maintains it was premeditated murder.

The fathers of both Pistorius and Steenkamp were in court for the first time on Thursday.

The runner, dressed in a dark suit and tie, sat impassively through the proceedings.

The killing has shattered the image of Pistorius as an embodiment of triumph over adversity for both his Paralympic victories and his success against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.

Pistorius also faces three separate charges, including two counts of discharging firearms in public and possession of illegal ammunition, all of which he denies.

Roux called on the court to consider the testimony of state witnesses against objective facts.

"All we say is once you measure the evidence against objective facts, you realise there is a difference between reliability and credibility."

Roux said the state has been unable to reconcile the two sets of sound heard on the morning of the shooting.

He said the first sounds were the gunshots that killed Steenkamp and the second, the bat hitting the door.

Roux said Prosecutor Gerrie Nel made no attempt to explain these because if he did, it would damage his case.

Nel asked the court to consider that the neighbours heard no screams before the first noises but did hear screams before the second noises.

He argued that in the absence of evidence to prove that Pistorius screams like a woman, it must've been Steenkamp screaming.

STATE DELIVERS CLOSING ARGUMENT

Nel's closing argument focused on contradictions in Pistorius's evidence.

He said the athlete tailored his version of events and has failed to explain numerous discrepancies.

He dismissed Pistorius's claims of perceived danger on the day he shot Steenkamp, saying it was clear he intended to kill her.

Nel also referred WhatsApp messages between the couple in an effort to show they had a turbulent relationship.

But Judge Thokozile Masipa questioned the relevance of these messages, saying relationships are dynamic and naturally have ups and downs.

"Can you really rely on these WhatsApp messages? Can you really make a proper inference one way or the other."

Nel argued the messages reveal tension between the pair.

He said the defence will argue that these messages represented only a small percentage but argued that it's like saying a person is healthy when only a small percentage of the body has cancer.

KEY EVIDENCE MOVED

The state argued Pistorius's failure to support his claim that the police moved key evidence around in his bedroom, exposes his version of events as a lie.

But the defence hit back in closing arguments today that an accused cannot be branded a liar if investigators tamper with a crime scene.

Nel said Pistorius testified that police moved the fans, a duvet and a pair of pants in his bedroom.

But Nel questioned why, if Roux had this information, did he not put it to the state's witnesses?

Nel said the only inference is that Pistorius tailored his evidence and it was only introduced when he was under-cross-examination.

Roux argued that the police were exposed as they were not working alone on the crime scene as they had claimed in their evidence.

He suggested the carelessness of the police resulted in items being moved around.

STEENKAMP ATE TWO HOURS BEFORE HER DEATH

The prosecutor said the court has no choice but to believe that Steenkamp ate about two hours prior to her death.

Nel compared testimony by both the state and defence's expert witnesses, saying Professor Gert Saayman is credible and found substantial evidence that Steenkamp ate something in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.

Nel said the defence's witness brought up relevant facts as to why food could still be found in the stomach after a period of time, but said none of them are relevant to this case.

He says if the court accepts that Steenkamp ate at around 1am, then it means they were up at that hour and Pistorius's version cannot be true.

Nel said Pistorius has been lying to the court and tailored his evidence to show that he felt threatened when he opened fire.

SNOWBALL OF LIES

Nel, known as 'The Pitbull' because of his fierce cross-examination style and penchant for the dramatic, said Pistorius was caught up in a "snowball of lies".

He also told the court Pistorius was an appalling witness.

"The argument was vague, his responses argumentative and that his mendacity was perhaps best exemplified with his evidence that, although he recalls a detail of his encounter with a Mercedes on the highway, he cannot recall who fetched him from Rhapsody's."

Referring to the placement of the fans and electrical cords on the night in question, Nel said it is not good enough that Pistorius claimed to lack memory of the exact details.

He also attacked Pistorius's assertion that the point wasn't significant, saying this indicates that he reconstructed his own memory.

The advocate said Pistorius was more concerned with the repercussions of his answers than with giving the court a truthful account.

The athlete broke down frequently during the trial, often sobbing and vomiting into a bucket.

The closing arguments are expected to last two days. The defence will continue with its closing argument tomorrow and after that, Judge Masipa, who has more than 4,000 pages of evidence to review, will retire to consider her verdict.

To see the heads of argument click here.

For more on the trial, click here, or visit the live Oscar Pistorius blog, click here.