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Pistorius says he shot girlfriend by mistake

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius tells court he accidentally killed Reeva Steenkamp, thinking she was an intruder.
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2013 02:35

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has admitted he fired the shots that killed his girlfriend but told a court her death was an accident and that he thought she was an intruder.

Prosecutors, however, said the double-amputee Olympian committed premeditated murder, planning the slaying, then firing at Reeva Steenkamp as she covered behind his locked bathroom door with no hope of escape.

"She couldn't go anywhere," Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told a packed courtroom on Tuesday. "It must have been horrific."

Weeping uncontrollably, Pistorius listened as his words were read out in court by his lawyer during the opening of a two-day bail hearing, his first public account of the events surrounding the shooting death of Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star.

"I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp," Pistorius said in the sworn affidavit.

Contradicting accounts

The killing has shocked South Africans and fans worldwide, who idolised the 26-year-old track star known as
the Blade Runner for overcoming his disability to compete in last summer's London Olympics.

"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 ... underneath my bed when I went to bed at night"

- Oscar Pistorius

Nel said Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he rose from his bed after a fight with Steenkamp, pulled on his prosthetic legs and walked about seven metres from his bedroom to the locked toilet door and pumped it with four bullets, three of which hit the model.

That contradicted the runner's statement, read aloud by defence lawyer Barry Roux, who described how the couple spent a quiet night together in the athlete's upscale home in a gated community in the capital of Pretoria, then went to sleep around 10pm.

Sometime before dawn, Pistorius said he awoke, and walking only on his stumps, pulled a fan in from an open balcony and closed it.

That is when he said he heard a noise and became alarmed because the bathroom window, which had no security bars, was open and workers had left ladders nearby.

"It filled me with horror and fear," Pistorius said in the statement. "I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes," he said.

"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 9mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night."

Too frightened to turn on a light, Pistorius said, he pulled out his pistol and headed for the bathroom, believing Steenkamp was still asleep "in the pitch dark" of the bedroom.

'Deeply in love'

"As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself," he said, adding that he shouted to Steenkamp to call the police as he fired at the closed toilet door.

It was then, Pistorius said, that he realised Steenkamp was not in bed. He said he pulled on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the toilet door before finally giving up and bashing it in with a cricket bat.

Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over but still alive. He said he lifted her bloodied body and carried her downstairs to seek medical help.

But it was too late. "She died in my arms," Pistorius said. "We were deeply in love and I could not be happier," the athlete said.

The case was adjourned until Wednesday without ruling on whether Pistorius would be granted bail.

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