As his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was buried at her hometown on South Africa’s south coast Tuesday, Oscar Pistorius wept uncontrollably in court as his lawyer, Barry Roux, read out his account of how he shot and killed her. Rejecting the prosecution charge of premeditated murder, Pistorius stated in an affidavit at the Pretoria Magistrates Court: “I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend. Nothing can be further from the truth. I deny the allegation in the strongest terms.”
Pistorius, the 26-year-old Olympian and Paralympian sprinter, one of the stars of the London Olympics and nicknamed the Blade Runner for his carbon-fiber prosthetics, then described the hours before the shooting at his house in Pretoria on Feb. 14. The couple had planned to go out separately with different friends but Steenkamp, 30, called to ask if the two might spend a quiet evening at home. Steenkamp gave Pistorius a Valentine’s Day present and asked him to save it for the next day. By 10 p.m., the couple were in their bedroom. “She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television,” Pistorius’ statement read. “My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. After Reeva finished her yoga exercises she got into bed and we both fell asleep.”
Pistorius added he was “acutely aware” of South Africa’s violent crime. “I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9-mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I [go] to bed at night.”
He continued: “During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realized that someone was in the bathroom.
“I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps.
“I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.
“I grabbed my 9-mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.
“I noticed that the bathroom window was open. I realized that the intruder/s was/were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed. I heard movement inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. It filled me with horror and fear. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself.
“I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding.
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“When I reached the bed, I realized that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help.
“I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must then have turned on the lights. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door. Reeva was slumped over but alive.”
Pistorius then described how he telephoned the housing-estate administrator, asked him to call an ambulance, then carried Steenkamp downstairs to the front door. “A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived,” he said. “Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.”
Pistorius wept throughout the reading of his testimony; at one point, Magistrate Desmond Nair suspended proceedings to allow Pistorius to collect himself. The court also heard testimonies from two friends of the couple, including her best friend, Samantha Greyvenstein, that the couple were in love and had separately confided to their friends that they were considering marriage. “I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva,” Pistorius concluded. “I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved.” He added that he trusted the courts would clear him of murder. Pistorius added he earned $630,000 a year, had savings of $112,000 and owned four properties, including the house where the shooting occurred, worth $930,000.
The hearing, centered on Pistorius’ application for bail, was due to resume Wednesday.