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South African prosecutor starts Pistorius cross-examination

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (C) arrives ahead of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria April 9, 2014.
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (C) arrives ahead of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria April 9, 2014.

By Joe Brock

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South African state prosecutors started cross-examining Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday, vowing to "get to the truth" surrounding the killing of Pistorius' girlfriend on Valentine's day last year.

"You killed Reeva Steenkamp, didn't you?" prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked bluntly at the start of questioning, to which Pistorius, who is accused of murder, responded that he had made a mistake.

Earlier, Pistorius, fighting back tears, told the court about the immediate aftermath of the shooting and how he desperately tried to revive Steenkamp, who was hit by three of four pistol rounds fired through a locked toilet door.

Pistorius, who faces life in prison if convicted of murder, says the killing was a tragic error and that he fired after mistaking her for an intruder.

"I checked to see if she was breathing and she wasn't," the double amputee told the Pretoria High Court, describing his desperate attempts to pick up the 29-year-old law graduate and model, who pathologists said had been mortally wounded by one shot to the head.

"I could feel the blood was running down on me," Pistorius said.

He said he eventually managed to carry Steenkamp down the stairs where neighbors tried to administer first aid before paramedics arrived.

But Pistorius said he knew that Steenkamp - with whom he said he was planning to buy a house - was already dead.

"The paramedics arrived. They asked for some space to work so I stood up," he said, his voice quavering with emotion.

"Reeva, Reeva had already died whilst I was holding her, before the ambulance arrived, so I knew there was nothing they could do for her."

(Reporting by Joe Brock; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa)

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