Oscar Pistorius 'besotted' with Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius arriving in court on 8 April 2014 Oscar Pistorius described how he and Reeva Steenkamp became close in the months they were together

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has said he was "besotted" with his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, as he gave evidence at his murder trial.

He cried when describing Valentine's Day gifts they were to give each other.

He also denied the allegation made by other witnesses that he had fired a gun through a car sunroof.

The athlete denies deliberately shooting dead Ms Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day last year, arguing he mistook her for an intruder.

On his first day on the stand, he made a tearful apology to Ms Steenkamp's family.

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If found guilty, the 27-year-old athlete could face life imprisonment.

He also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

'Bad hour'

The courtroom is packed for the second day of Mr Pistorius' testimony, which is not being filmed.

Responding to his questioning by his lawyer Barry Roux, he said that in January 2013: "I was very keen on Reeva. If anything I was more keen than she was."

He said they had a shared interest in cars and had spent Christmas together after meeting on 4 November 2012.

"I let her just take her space - it wasn't always easy, I was besotted with her... the relationship built up to a point in December, January that we really... started caring about each other.

"We were talking about our future together, including moving to a new place in Johannesburg together."

Aimee Pistorious Oscar Pistorius' sister Aimee looked on as he read out the phone messages between the couple

He shot her dead on 14 February 2013.

Mr Roux has also asked him to comment on "tensions" in their relationship and on Whatsapp messages describing several rows the couple had in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Mr Pistorius cried and frequently paused, his voice quivering, as he read the couple had exchanged during their three-month relationship.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in court says Mr Roux is trying to show that the two had a loving relationship, in an attempt to undo the damage caused by a couple of messages, which show the couple arguing, including one in which Ms Steenkamp wrote: "I am scared of you sometimes".

"I just think it was a bad hour in our relationship," he said about one argument.

When Ms Steenkamp had started talking to another man at an event without introducing him, Mr Pistorius said: "I was a bit upset, I felt neglected... I was being sensitive, insecure... I wasn't kind to her like I should have been."

Reeva Steenkamp's mother, June (7 April 2014) Reeva Steenkamp's mother, June, remained impassive during Mr Pistorius' testimony on Monday
This aerial image showing the home of Oscar Pistorius in Pretoria on 14 February 2013 Mr Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp when she was in a toilet at his house in Pretoria

Ms Steenkamp's mother, June, watched intently as Mr Pistorius spoke about how they overcame their arguments.

He explained how the couple met on 4 November through a mutual friend at a car event and she had later agreed to accompany him that evening to the SA Sports Awards as he did not have a date.

After this, they became close but Ms Steenkamp started receiving hate mail on Twitter for dating him, he said.

The athlete said he believed his ex-girlfriend Sam Taylor had set up fake social media accounts to attack her.

He said he split up with Ms Taylor after she was unfaithful to him while away he was at the Olympics in London.

After denying shooting his gun through a car sunroof, he described the incident in a restaurant when a gun he was holding went off accidently.

He said he was angry with his friend Darren Fresco for handing him a loaded gun - and he said Mr Fresco offered to take the blame and continued to do so.

Mr Pistorius apologised to the restaurant owner, saying it was his fault and he would pay for any damage.

Before Mr Pistorius' appearance, the trial had already heard 15 days of prosecution-led testimony, which relied on accounts from neighbours and specialist ballistics experts, as well forensic and mobile phone evidence.

Oscar Pistorius told the court on Monday he was "scared to sleep"

One neighbour, Michelle Burger, told the court she was awoken by a woman's "terrible screams" followed by gun shots.

The athlete aims to convince the court that the screams were his, and that he shot Ms Steenkamp through a closed toilet door because he had mistaken her for an intruder.

The defence is also likely to address key questions, including allegations that Mr Pistorius was reckless with guns and in not checking the whereabouts of his girlfriend before he opened fire.

Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, reality TV celebrity and law graduate, was hit by at least three bullets while in the toilet cubicle of Mr Pistorius' home in Pretoria.

Mr Pistorius is a double amputee who holds six Paralympic medals and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

INTERACTIVE
  • ×

  • 1. Balcony

    × Balcony

    Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

    He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

  • 2. Bathroom window

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

    "Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

    Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

  • 3. Shooting

    ×

    Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

    Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

    He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

    Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.

    A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

  • 4. Bedroom

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.

    Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.

  • 5. Toilet door

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

    Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

  • 6. Emergency calls

    ×

    Mr Pistorius's defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

    A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.

    A minute later he received an incoming call - estate security calling him back.

    According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.

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