Oscar Pistorius recounts moment of killing

Oscar Pistorius recounts the shooting

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has described the moment he fired the shots which killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home.

He told his trial in Pretoria he had heard noises from the toilet and thought an intruder was coming out.

"Before I knew it, I had fired four shots at the door," he said.

The trial of the athlete, who could face life imprisonment if convicted of murder, was adjourned until Wednesday after he broke down crying.

In court

Shortly before Oscar Pistorius described in court how he had shot Reeva Steenkamp, his lawyer asked him to demonstrate his height without his prosthetic legs.

Gasps were heard in the overflow courtroom as he slowly walked on his stumps over to the toilet door. His confident demeanour changed - on his stumps he seemed self-conscious. Very few people have seen him like this and it is not an image visible to the world as his testimony is not being televised.

The court heard for the first time that the athlete had spoken to Ms Steenkamp shortly after waking up, to bring in some fans from the balcony. She had asked if he was having trouble sleeping. Another revelation was how he had whispered to her to get down and phone the police after hearing the sound in the bathroom - but there was no mention of her replying.

He also did not mention having an argument with his girlfriend that night, rather describing a quiet, couple's night in. The prosecution argues that he killed her in a fit of rage and neighbours have testified to hearing "loud voices" prior to the four shots Mr Pistorius fired.

The 27-year-old double amputee denies deliberately shooting Ms Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

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

The prosecution alleges that Mr Pistorius killed his girlfriend after an argument with her.

'She wasn't breathing'

In the early hours of 14 February 2013, he said he had got up from bed to bring in some fans he had left outside, in order to cool his bedroom.

When he heard a window opening in the bathroom, he said, he thought there was a burglar trying to get in.

Wanting to protect Ms Steenkamp, who was not sleeping, he had gone to get his gun in the dark.

"I whispered to Reeva to get down and phone the police," he said.

He said he then went into the passage without his prosthetic legs and, overcome with fear, started screaming, and shouted for Ms Steenkamp to get to the floor.

Oscar Pistorius arriving at the court in Pretoria, 8 April Oscar Pistorius (l) arriving for Tuesday's proceedings in Pretoria
June Steenkamp in court, Pretoria, South Africa - 8 April 2014 Reeva Steenkamp's mother, June, listened intently during the second day of Oscar Pistorius' testimony
Aimee Pistorius hugs a family member in the Pretoria High Court, 8 April Aimee Pistorius, the defendant's sister, hugged a family member in court
Members of the public react in the gallery at the Pretoria High Court, 8 April Members of the public followed the testimony from the gallery
A bucket on the floor in the dock at the Pretoria High Court, 8 April 2014 A bucket was put in the dock in case Mr Pistorius vomited as he testified
Oscar Pistorius leaving court, 8 April Mr Pistorius is seen here leaving court on Tuesday

The toilet door slammed, reconfirming his belief there was a person or people in the bathroom, the athlete said.

"I heard a noise from inside the toilet, what I perceived to be someone coming out of the toilet," he said tearfully. At that point, he shot at the door.

After the shooting, Mr Pistorius said he had smashed in a door panel to get into the toilet, where he discovered what he had done.

"Whilst I leant over the partition to get in, I saw the key, so I took it and I unlocked the door, and I flung the door open, and I threw it open," he said, sobbing.

"And I sat over Reeva and I cried... and um, I don't know how long... I don't know how long I was there for... She wasn't breathing."

As the athlete broke down, the judge adjourned the trial.

Valentine's gifts

Earlier, the athlete described how the couple had spent a quiet evening together on 13 February, Ms Steenkamp doing some yoga as he spoke to his cousin on the phone.

He had then watched TV in bed with his head resting on her stomach and she would occasionally show him photos of cars she was looking at on her phone, he said.

He said that they had bought Valentine's Day gifts for each other. He had bought her a bracelet and they had been due to go the jewellers' to collect it the next day, he said.

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's home in Pretoria.

Known as the Blade Runner, Mr Pistorius holds six Paralympic medals and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

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

Even if he is acquitted, South African law stipulates that the court must consider the separate, lesser charge of culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

If convicted on this charge, he could face between six and 15 years in prison.

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

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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