BUSINESS DAY LIVE, MAIL & GUARDIAN, NEWS 24 (South Africa), THE GUARDIAN (UK) REUTERS
PRETORIA - Oscar Pistorius released a statement to a packed courtroom Tuesday denying he murdered his girlfriend, saying he was “desperately trying to protect Reeva” from what he thought was an intruder in his home when he fatally shot her through a locked bathroom door.
Vehemently denying the charge of murder, the South African Paralympian gave his version of events, read out by his lawyer, during a bail hearing in a Pretoria hearing.
Pistorius said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity and a standing fear of violent intruders. He said he grabbed his gun after he heard noises in the bathroom, thinking his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, was sleeping next to him.
"As I did not have my prosthetic legs on, I felt vulnerable for myself and Reeva," his statement said, according to the Guardian.
The statement came shortly after prosecutors had called on the court to deny bail to Pistorius, who is being charged with premeditated murder.
The case is reverberating around the world, and consuming South Africa, where Pistorius became a national hero after becoming the first person without legs to run in an Olympic event, the 400-meters at last year's Olympics in London.
Both the defense and prosecution say that Steenkamp was shot by Pistorius. But defense attorney Barry Roux, stated that “this isn’t even murder” and will be arguing that the Olympic athlete believed that the person he shot was, in fact, a burglar.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel laid out a very different version of events, in which Pistorius got out of bed, put on his prosthetic legs, picked up the pistol, then shot his girlfriend, reports Business Day Live.
One of the most important details in this case is the locked bathroom door. The prosecution asked why would a burglar lock a bathroom door? If Steenkamp had, in fact, “had an urge” in the middle of the night, why would she have locked the bathroom door? The defense countered that the State cannot prove that Pistorius knew who was on the other side of that door and that they do not have any witnesses to prove the claim.
Sky News writes that Roux stated that "All we really know is she locked herself behind the toilet door and she was shot...Was it to kill her, or was it to get her out?" he asked the court, referring to the broken-down door. He added that evidence would be brought, if needed, of men who had shot their wives or children thinking that they were burglars, according to the Mail & Guardian.
The Guardian was updating the case live from the courtroom, where Oscar Pistorius supplied an affidavit that Roux read out loud in the court, detailing his version of what transpired. “I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I did not intend to kill my girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.”
In requesting bail, Pistorius stated that he has no intention of relocating, affirming his love for South Africa and denying the accusations of murder “to the strongest point.”
He said that he and Steenkamp had mutually decided to stay home on the evening of February 13. At 10 p.m., she was doing yoga in the bedroom and he was watching TV with his prosthetic legs off. He stated that they were very much in love and she felt the same way. At this point, a break in proceedings was called by Justice Nair because Pistorius was sobbing uncontrollably and the judge’s compassion “as a human being” compelled him to stop the reading of the statement. He was consoled by his family.
After the pause, Roux continued. Pistorius said that he had received death threats, and was acutely aware of violent criminals. He confirmed that he slept with a 9mm pistol under his bed. At some point during the night, he woke up to close the sliding balcony door when he heard a noise in the bathroom. He said that he felt terrified and instinctively grabbed his gun, thinking Reeva was still in the bed and did not switch on the light. He screamed to her to call the police.
He says he did not have his prosthetic legs on and therefore felt vulnerable for himself and Reeva, firing shots through the door. That is when he realized Reeva was not in the bed and could have been in the bathroom, where the door was locked.
He said he put on his prosthetic legs, and tried to kick open the door, using a cricket bat to help him, where he found Reeva slumped over the toilet, still alive. He called for an ambulance and brought her downstairs, where she died in his arms. Pistorius tried to revive her but did not succeed. “I can’t stand how much hurt I have caused.”
“I believe forensic evidence will prove what I am saying.”
In his plea for bail, News24 reports that the runner wrote: “I am an international sports star, I will not evade my trial. I am willing to surrender my passports should it be a condition of bail. After the incident, I did not attempt to flee. After the shooting I did not flee the scene. I remained until the police arrived.”
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 kilometers away, the funeral of Reeva Steenkamp was held Tuesday morning in Port Elizabeth. She was 29.