Oscar Pistorius says Reeva died in his arms after 'accident'

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp

THERE were tears, drama and unexpected revelations on the first day of arguments in what is expected to become South Africa's most compelling trial since the end of Apartheid.

The day, in a crowded and unruly courtroom in Pretoria, hinged on the magistrate's acceptance of the prosecution's argument that Olympian Oscar Pistorius should be charged with premeditated murder.

As the 26-year-old athlete hunched forward sobbing uncontrollably, news reached the court that the coffin of his dead girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, had arrived at her funeral hundreds of miles away in Port Elizabeth.

After a long morning in which the defence and prosecution sparred over the nature of premeditation, proceedings burst into life as the magistrate said he could not rule out the notion that the killing had been pre-planned.

The decision dramatically raised the bar on the defence's application for bail and handed the first round in what will be a marathon legal battle to prosecutor, Gerrie Nel.

Lead counsel for the defence, Barry Roux, responded by unveiling an affidavit that finally gave Mr Pistorius's account of what happened in the early hours of Valentine's Day when his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead.

The athlete had spent a quiet night with his girlfriend at his home in the luxury security estate on the outskirts of Pretoria, the court was told.

She had done some yoga exercises while he watched television before they both turned in for the night.

In the early hours of the morning, the runner awoke and went out onto the balcony without strapping on his prosthetic legs to recover a fan, according to the affidavit.

"I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom," said Mr Pistorius's sworn statement. "I felt a sense of terror rushing over me."

He then claims he went back inside, collected the 9mm handgun he keeps in case of intruders and went in to the bathroom without switching on the lights.

"As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger."

His response was to shoot through the door of the cubicle and return to the bedroom to look for his girlfriend.

Only when he found the bed empty, he claimed, did it dawn on him that he may have shot Ms Steenkamp.

He forced entrance to the cubicle, found her still alive and carried her downstairs. "Reeva died in my arms," he statement said.

This account of a romantic night in gone horrifically wrong contrasted sharply with what the prosecutor, Mr Nel, had earlier called the "cold facts" of the case.

He said that it was clear that Ms Steenkamp had spent the evening with the accused, citing her overnight bag and vanity case found at the scene.

He then described the distance of 7m between the bed and the small cubicle toilet in which the 29-year-old model had died.

Four shots had been fired, three of them hitting Ms Steenkamp.

"There was no possible support for the claim that it was a burglar,"

Mr Nel said. "He armed himself, walked seven metres and shot a defenceless person inside a small space where there was no possible escape."

Dressed in a grey suit and flanked by his father, brother and sister, Amy, one of the most recognisable figures in sport sobbed his way through proceedings.

At one point the magistrate paused the hearing asking Mr Pistorius to "compose" himself, warning that he did not want him leaving the court without having understood what had taken place.

The unexpected arrival of the affidavit so early in proceedings prompted the defence to request a holdover until today.

Topics:  editors picks oscar pistorius reeva steenkamp

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