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Oscar Pistorius apologises for killing Reeva Steenkamp

An emotional Oscar Pistorius has started his testimony at his murder trial by apologising to the family of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

In a trembling voice, he said he was “trying to protect” her and said he could not imagine their pain.

Mr Pistorius said he suffered “terrible nightmares” and often woke up smelling Ms Steenkamp’s blood.

Prosecutors say he killed her in February 2013 after an argument. He says he mistook her for an intruder.

The Paralympic athlete told Ms Steenkamp’s relatives that there “hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family”.

“I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I’ve caused you and your family.

“I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.

Reeva Steenkamp's mother, JuneReeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, remained impassive during Mr Pistorius’ testimony

“I’ve tried to put my words on paper many, many times to write to you. But no words will ever suffice.”

In the packed Pretoria courtroom, Ms Steenkamp’s mother, June, sat stony-faced while he spoke.

Mr Pistorius said he was taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Pumza FihlaniPumza FihlaniBBC News, Pretoria

Riveting testimony from Oscar Pistorius. He began by apologising to Reeva Steenkamp’s family for her death, saying there wasn’t a moment that he didn’t think of that day.

His voice broke as he told the court that the night his girlfriend died, she was loved. We also heard of his difficulty sleeping – he took pills and anti-depressants to cope.

Another key detail from his evidence was his mother’s fear of crime. “She kept a gun under a pillow” and would often call the police, we learned.

Then an event that changed his life – a boating accident in 2009, which resulted in more than 100 stitches on his face and left him with an intense fear of dying.

Mr Pistorius and his team are painting a picture of a man whose life, despite his world acclaim, has been peppered with tragedy, fear and vulnerability. The state, of course, will dispute this

“I’m scared to sleep, I have terrible nightmares, I can smell blood and wake up terrified,” he said.

He added that he never wanted to handle a gun again.

The athlete, 27, told the court about his difficult childhood after being born with parts of both legs missing and needing to wear prosthetic limbs.

After a recess, Mr Pistorius was asked whether he and his family had been exposed to criminal acts.

He said there had been many break-ins while he was growing up.

Mr Pistorius said he had been shot at on the highway and on another occasion was followed by a car into his gated community. He said he had his gun with him and the two men in the car had sped off.

Mr Pistorius said he was also attacked at a party in December 2012, and had to have stitches in the head.

As he detailed how important religion was to him, Mr Pistorius again became emotional and his counsel, Barry Roux, asked for an adjournment.

The prosecution said that as long as this was not a daily occurrence there would be no objection and the case will resume on Tuesday morning.

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in court says the defence team has been trying to paint a picture of a man whose life has been peppered with tragedy, fear and vulnerability.

‘Inexact science’

Mr Pistorius was speaking on the first day of the defence case.

Mr Roux said he would call 14 to 17 witnesses to testify on “ballistics, urine emptying, damage to the toilet door, sound, and disability and vulnerability”.

Pathologist Jan Botha was the first defence witness. Defendants who choose to testify are the first defence witnesses in South Africa but Mr Botha was allowed to testify first because of a family illness.

Mr Botha, a private pathologist who said he has carried out about 25,000 autopsies, was asked about gastric emptying and calculating Ms Steenkamp’s time of death.

Source:BBC

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