Oscar Pistorius says he was “overcome with fear” and ran screaming toward his bathroom with his 9mm pistol in his hand after he heard a bathroom window opening and closing, just minutes before shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through the door.
In dramatic testimony to a packed courtroom, the double-amputee Olympic hero said he was convinced that a burglar or burglars had entered his home when he heard the noise of the small window in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.
“That’s the moment that everything changed,” Mr. Pistorius tearfully told his murder trial.
He said he was terrified of the perceived threat, just a few metres away from the bedroom, so he grabbed his pistol from beneath his bed to “protect” himself and Ms. Steenkamp.
He said he shouted and screamed, telling the “burglars” to leave and telling Ms. Steenkamp to “get down.” He was moving on his stumps because he had earlier removed his prosthetic legs to sleep.
His bedroom was dark and he ran with his hand in front of him, Mr. Pistorius said. After screaming, he heard a door slamming and it “confirmed” that a person or persons were inside the bathroom, he said.
A few minutes earlier, he and Ms. Steenkamp had woken up, sleepless on a humid night, and Ms. Steenkamp had asked him whether he was unable to sleep, he said.
He has not yet testified about the four shots that he fired at the locked toilet door. That testimony is expected later Tuesday after a lunch break at the trial.
Mr. Pistorius spoke in a trembling but clear voice. On a courtroom bench just a few metres away, Ms. Steenkamp’s mother June was overcome with tears and hunched over, comforted by friends, as she heard Mr. Pistorius describe her daughter’s final moments.
Mr. Pistorius was wearing shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt as he testified, because he had earlier removed his prosthetic legs to show his height in relation to the bathroom door – an exhibit in the courtroom.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Pistorius flatly denied that he had fired his 9mm pistol through the open sunroof of a car in September 2012, despite testimony from two friends who had been in the car. He acknowledged, however, that he was angry and “agitated” because a policeman had picked up his pistol and removed a bullet from it, after stopping their car for speeding.
Asked about an incident in January 2013 in which he had discharged a pistol in a busy restaurant, Mr. Pistorius said it was a “mistake” and “stupid” of him to ask his friend Darren Fresco to pass him the gun, but he blamed Mr. Fresco for giving him an unsafe loaded gun. He denied that he had asked Mr. Fresco to take the blame, insisting that it was his friend’s idea.
Mr. Pistorius also read excerpts from a huge stack of cellphone messages between him and Ms. Steenkamp as the defence tried to establish that they had a loving relationship. The messages included several examples of arguments between them, but the “unhappiness” was always “resolved” afterward, Mr. Pistorius said.
In one message, after an argument at a party, Ms. Steenkamp said she was sometimes “scared” of him. After tearfully reading the message, Mr. Pistorius said it was a “bad day” in their relationship. He said he was “upset” and “sensitive and maybe insecure or jealous” when she neglected him at a party, which led to her message.
Most of the messages between the two, however, were filled with terms of endearment and tender nicknames, and the defence was clearly trying to establish that they had a loving relationship.