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April 12, 2014

Prosecutor challenges Pistorius' story of killing

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — What exactly was Oscar Pistorius doing in the moments before he fatally shot his girlfriend in his home?

Was he, as the double-amputee Olympian testified Friday, hobbling fearfully on his stumps with his pistol down a passageway from his bedroom toward the bathroom after hearing a possible intruder there? Or, as the chief prosecutor contended, was he instead angrily pursuing his girlfriend in the midst of an argument?

Contradicting himself at times, Pistorius sparred with the prosecutor over the differing accounts of what happened on the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp by firing four times through the closed door of a toilet cubicle. The star athlete, who says the shooting was an accident because he mistook her for a robber, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

"My whole being was fixated on this person that I thought was in the bathroom," Pistorius said during the third day of his cross-examination.

He said that as he moved toward the bathroom, he screamed to his girlfriend to get down from their bed and call the police. After hearing a noise that made him think someone was opening the toilet door to attack him, Pistorius said he opened fire. Only afterward, he testified, did he realize that Steenkamp was not in the bedroom but in the toilet cubicle.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, however, said an argument between the couple was the "only reasonable explanation" for why Pistorius, 27, shot the 29-year-old model as she stood behind the toilet door some three meters (yards) away in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day last year.

Citing earlier expert testimony, Nel noted that the trajectory of the three bullets that hit the model in the hip, arm and head showed she was standing behind the door and facing it. Steenkamp wasn't scared of anyone "other than you," Nel said to the athlete.

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