Combative prosecutor makes mark in Pistorius trial

Apr 14 2014, 16:07 IST
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SummaryProsecutor Gerrie Nel fired another tough question at murder suspect Oscar Pistorius.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel fired another tough question at murder suspect Oscar Pistorius.

"Are you sure, Mr Pistorius, that Reeva did not scream after you fired the first shot?'' asked Nel.

The athlete, who earlier said he was tired and struggling under the relentless interrogation, leaned back in the witness box and remained silent. The wood-lined courtroom in South Africa was hushed and expectant on Friday. Was Pistorius thinking through an answer, or was he on the verge of an emotional outburst, or was he reflecting on his predicament and Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed in his home last year?

After a tense pause, the Olympic athlete said he wished Steenkamp had let him know she was in the toilet cubicle where he shot her _ by mistake, according to his account. He said she did not scream, but also that his ears were ringing with the gunshot and he would not have heard screams.

Pistorius often seemed worn down as the caustic prosecutor picked holes in parts of his story. The dramatic cross-examination has drawn attention to Nel, a prominent state prosecutor dubbed ``pitbull'' in local media and on social networks for his combative, often effective style.

One of the highlights of his career came in 2010 when he secured the conviction on corruption charges of Jackie Selebi, a former national police commissioner and ex-president of Interpol _ Nel got an international prosecutors' award for his efforts in that case.

Now Nel's international profile is ascending further after three days of challenging and even ridiculing the claim by Pistorius, 27, that he accidentally killed Steenkamp, 29, by firing through a closed toilet door, mistaking her for an intruder in his house before dawn on Feb. 14, 2013. The prosecution says the double-amputee runner is lying, and that he killed his girlfriend after an argument during which she fled into the toilet cubicle to seek refuge. Nel will continue questioning Pistorius on Monday.

A radio station made a parody rap song about defense lawyer Barry Roux, and now Nel has one too ("They call me Gerrie Nel/And I am mad as hell.'') In The Times, a South African newspaper, cartoonist Zapiro depicted Nel as a bullet, his head on the tip, speeding toward an alarmed Pistorius.

He has a gentler side, according to Rapport newspaper. It reported that in his personal time, Nel teaches young children how to wrestle and that he is patient and never

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