Oscar weeps as he apologises to Steenkamps

2014-04-07 14:50
(Theana Breugem, Foto24)

(Theana Breugem, Foto24)

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Oscar's trial - day 17 summary

2014-04-07 15:36

Here's all you need to know of Oscar Pistorius's testimony when he took to the stand on day 17 of his murder trial in the North Gauteng High Court. Watch. WATCH

Pretoria - "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius wept as he took the stand in his murder trial on Monday and swore to Reeva Steenkamp's family that he was trying to protect her from an intruder when he shot her dead.

"I wake up every morning and you [her family] are the first people I think of, the first people I pray for... I was simply trying to protect Reeva," the double amputee athlete sobbed as he began his testimony with an apology.

He said he could promise that she felt loved when she went to bed with him on the night she died.

Under questioning from his lawyer Barry Roux, Pistorius told the North Guateng High Court in Pretoria he had been taking a cocktail of anti-depressants and sleeping pills since the shooting because he was haunted by nightmares and the smell of blood.

"I'm scared to sleep," Pistorius said, clutching a white tissue.

"For several reasons. I have terrible nightmares about things that happened that night. I smell blood and I wake up to be terrified. I hear a noise, I wake up in just... in a complete state of terror..."

He said the turmoil drove him to climb into a cupboard one night and call his sister Aimee to come and comfort him.

Roux proceeded to ask Pistorius in detail about his childhood, from the bullying he endured at school because of his disability to his beloved mother's death when he was 15.

He said it was "very unexpected" when she passed away, and suggested that his security fears were inherited from his mother Sheila, who slept with a handgun under her pillow.

"She often got scared at night. We didn't live in the best of areas. There was a lot of crime. She would call the police, call us to her room and we would wait for the police to arrive."

But Pistorius, who shot Steenkamp with sophisticated "Black Talon" bullets, said he would never touch a firearm again and now lives with a security guard stationed outside his house at night instead.

He has been charged with premeditated murder but denies intending to kill his blonde girlfriend when he fired four shots into a locked toilet cubicle in his Pretoria home in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year.


Ahead of what is expected to be gruelling cross-examination by State prosecutor Gerrie Nel, Pistorius spoke of the demands of his athletic career, which saw him become the first disabled sprinter to compete in the Olympics, and his charity work with landmine victims.

He mentioned the toll travelling took on his relationships and the emotional and physical impact of his disability, saying: "I can't stand still on my stumps... I don't have very good balance."

According to both the defence and the State, Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he shot Steenkamp.

He was the second witness to be called by his defence team after retired pathologist Jan Botha, who contradicted the testimony of the police and the pathologist who performed the post mortem on Steenkamp on the sequence and impact of her wounds.

Botha said he believed Pistorius shot Steenkamp first in the hip, then the arm, then the head in about four seconds, and then she died probably without being able to call out.

The State has built much of its case on testimony from neighbours who said they heard a woman scream in terror from Pistorius's house just before Steenkamp died.

But under cross-examination Botha was forced to concede that Steenkamp may have screamed in fear and that he could not relate the holes in the door with the bullet wounds she suffered with any certainty.

"I'm not certain of the sequence of the bullet wounds [sic] in the door... I never commented on the sequence of holes in the door and their correlation with the sequence of the wounds," Botha said under cross-examination by Nel.

"You can't divorce the two," Nel challenged.

Marks on door

In sometimes sardonic questioning, Nel also said Botha could not testify with any certainty about the possible deviations in the abrasion marks around the bullet wounds if he failed to take into account that they had first travelled through a meranti door.

"Bring me any publication where somebody would support you that you can make any conclusion about the collar of abrasion after it has passed through a door," Nel said.

The pathologist reiterated that he was not a ballistics expert.

In a surprise step, Roux altered the defence's original claim that Pistorius used a so-called double-tap sequence when he fired the four shots, to say that his client had merely fired in rapid succession.

Nel responded: "I am totally surprised by what Mr Roux said about the double-tap... It is the first I hear that it is not the defence's case that it was a double tap."

In his re-examination of Botha, the prosecutor said if this were the case, the witnesses' version of what happened in the moments before Steenkamp died were even less likely.

Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  crime  |  pistorius trial

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