Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete tells Reeva Steenkamp's family 'I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness I have caused'

Pistorius to counter accusations that he intentionally killed Reeva Steenkamp

PRETORIA

Oscar Pistorius’s defence sought to paint a picture of a man whose life has been marked by tragedy and fear as the athlete took to the stand at his murder trial on Monday.

A tearful, stuttering and seemingly grief-stricken Pistorius began his testimony by apologising to the Steenkamp family.

“I will start my evidence by tendering an apology,” he said. “I would like to apologise to Mr and Mrs Steenkamp, her family and friends.”

“I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness I have caused you and your family.

"You're the first people I think of when I wake up. You're the first people I pray for. I was trying to protect Reeva. When she went to bed that night, she felt loved.

“I’ve tried to put my pen to paper many times to write to you but no words would ever suffice.”

Pistorius also revealed that he has been taking anti-depressants since the accident happened, and other medication to help him sleep at night.

"I'm scared to sleep,” he said tearfully. “I have terrible nightmares about what happened that night. I can smell blood. I wake up terrified."

Formerly a firearm enthusiast, Pistorius said he “never wants to be a near a firearm again”, and told the court of one occasion when he woke in a panic in the middle of the night, and hid in a cupboard, and telephoned his sister who came round to comfort him.

"I climbed into a cupboard and I phoned my sister to come and sit by me, which she did for a while," he said. "I'm just in a complete state of terror. I fall asleep and wake up like that."

He continued by talking through his childhood, telling a story of how his mother, who died when he was 15, was called to his school after a fight with another boy who had been bullying him and who had ripped his shirt.

“My mother said ‘It’s right that you should stand up for what you believe.’ She said she won’t be back. And she gave the shirt to the [other boy’s] mother, and said to bring it back when it was mended.”

He told the court his mother kept a gun under her pillow and the family had often been exposed to crime growing up in South Africa. He witnessed numerous break-ins, was attacked at a party and claimed to have been followed by a car into his gated community and shot on the highway.

"My mother had a lot of security concerns. We grew up in a family where my father wasn't around much so my mother had a pistol,” he told the court.

"She would often get scared at night so she would call the police – we didn't stay in the best of suburbs. She kept her firearm under her bed, under her pillow in a padded leather type of bag."

He also spoke about a boat crash in 2009, where he suffered serious facial injuries, and left him with an intense fear of losing his life. He told the court he became more vigilant about personal safety as a result of the accident. Pistorius denied he had been drinking when the boat crashed.

His voice broke when he spoke about his faith and his religious upbringing. His mother went to Church every week and sang in the choir. He questioned his faith following her death but later turned to the Lord and had always wanted a Christian partner.

He told the court meeting Ms Steenkamp was a "blessing".

Defence counsel Barry Roux secured an early adjournment arguing Pistorius was distressed and exhausted. Pistorius told the court he was "tired" and there was a lot of his mind.

When asked by Mr Roux whether he'd slept the previous night, Pistorius replied: "No, sir."

 

Earlier, the athlete retched and vomited in court after forensic pathologist Jan Botha described the wounds sustained by Ms Steenkamp the night she was shot through a locked toilet door.

Prof Botha told the court it is "highly unlikely" that she would have been able to react to the first shot that hit her in the hip if they "were fired in a rapid sequence".

"If the shots were fired in rapid sequence, and these four shots could have easily been fired in four seconds, I think it's highly unlikely that she would have called out," he added.

His testimony contradicts the prosecution's claim that Ms Steenkamp screamed as she was shot and the athlete must have known he was firing at her.

The defence no longer argues the athlete fired two “double tap” shots, claiming he fired a rapid succession of bullets instead.

Prof Botha also told the court that it would be difficult to determine the timeframe between Ms Steenkamp's last meal and her death as multiple many factors come to play, including the volume of food consumed and its caloric content, casting doubt on the prosecution's claim that she ate an hour to two hours before her death.

Read more: Crime scene photographs reveal brutal shooting

Pistorius has claimed the couple were in his bedroom by 10pm on 13 February 2013, and any indication that they were awake much later could undermine the Olympian's account of the sequence of events.

Pistorius is likely to be in the witness stand for a week or more, when he will be tested on his version of events of how his girlfriend came to be shot and killed in his house in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine’s day last year.

So far, state prosecutors have painted a picture of a gun-loving, possessive and jealous boyfriend who often snapped at Ms Steenkamp and accused her of flirting with other men.

In a text message sent on 27 January, Ms Steenkamp wrote: "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me". The model said she felt "picked on" and "attacked" by the one person she deserved protection from - referring to the athlete.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Steenkamp, claiming he shot the model by mistake thinking she was an intruder in his home. Prosecutors argue he intentionally shot and killed the 29-year old model following a domestic dispute.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa and Pistorius's fate will ultimately be decided by Judge Masipa, assisted by two assessors.

The case continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable