PRETORIA, South Africa – Oscar Pistorius portrayed himself as a lover caught in tragedy, wielding a pistol and frightened as he stood only on his stumps, then killed his girlfriend after mistaking her for an intruder on Valentine’s Day.
Prosecutors, however, said the double-amputee Olympian committed premeditated murder, planning the slaying, then firing at Reeva Steenkamp as she cowered behind his locked bathroom door with no hope of escape.
“She couldn’t go anywhere,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel told a packed courtroom Tuesday. “It must have been horrific.”
Weeping uncontrollably, Pistorius listened as his words were read out in court by his attorney during the opening of a two-day bail hearing, his first public account of the events surrounding the shooting death of Steenkamp, 29, a model and reality TV star who had spoken out against violence against women.
“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. “I deny the aforesaid allegation in the strongest terms.”
It was the first time that the prosecution and Pistorius provided details of their radically divergent accounts of the killing, which has shocked South Africans and fans worldwide, who idolized the 26-year-old track star known as the Blade Runner for overcoming his disability to compete in last summer’s London Olympics.
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 20 feet from his bedroom to the locked bathroom door and pumped it with four bullets, three of which hit the model.
That contradicted the runner’s statement, read aloud by defense attorney Barry Roux, who described how the couple spent a quiet night together, then went to sleep around 10 p.m.
Sometime before dawn, Pistorius said he awoke, heard a noise and became alarmed because the bathroom window was open and workers had left ladders nearby.
“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 9 mm 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.
“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 bathroom door.
It was then, Pistorius said, that he realized Steenkamp was not in bed.
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,” he said.
“We were deeply in love, and I could not be happier,” he added.
Nair adjourned the case until today without ruling on whether Pistorius would be granted bail.
Hundreds of miles from the Magistrate’s Court, a memorial service was held for Steenkamp in Port Elizabeth.