Pistorius tells of fear at sound of ‘burglar’

"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday testified that he panicked when he heard what he believed was a burglar on the night he shot dead Reeva Steenkamp, as he spent a second, emotional day on the stand in his murder trial.

Pistorius told the high court in Pretoria he heard a bathroom window bang after the couple had cuddled up in bed on February 13 2013.

"My Lady, that is the moment that everything changed. I thought there was a burglar," the disabled Olympic athlete said in a faltering voice.

"I just froze. I did not know what to do. I interpreted it as somebody climbing in," he added.

"The first thing that ran through my mind was that I needed to arm myself … That I needed to get my gun."

He proceeded to tell how he fetched his firearm and took it out of its holster, adding he believed he had to protect himself and Steenkamp, who he shot four times through a locked bathroom door in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day.

Before Pistorius began this crucial part of his testimony, his lawyer Barry Roux asked him to remove his prosthetic legs and a collective gasp went up from the public benches when he re-appeared in the court room on his stumps.

Pistorius (27) on Monday told the court he felt vulnerable and lacked balance when he was not wearing his prosthesis, as was the case at the time of the shooting.

He has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder and three unrelated firearm charges.

Questioned by Roux about the alleged incident that led to one of those, he denied firing a shot through the open sunroof of a car on September 30 2012.

"That never happened," he said.

State witnesses Samantha Taylor and Darren Fresco, a former girlfriend and friend of Pistorius, both told the high court in Pretoria that they were stunned when he fired a shot through the open sunroof of a car while they were driving back from an outing to the Vaal River.

Pistorius also differed with witness accounts of an incident in Tasha's restaurant in Melrose Arch, when he set off Fresco's pistol under a table while they were having lunch.

In his version, he never explicitly asked Fresco to take the blame, but neither did he intervene when his friend did so, glibly telling the owner of the restaurant that the firearm had gone off when it fell out of his pants.

Most of the morning's testimony however was taken up by Roux asking Pistorius to read and explain dozens of mobile phone text messages he exchanged with Steenkamp in the months they dated.

The messages mostly portray a caring, affectionate pair and Pistorius told the court he was "besotted with her" and felt he had fallen more deeply in love than she had.

The prosecution last month focused on a number of bitter rows that played out in their electronic exchanges, notably one in which Steenkamp complained of Pistorius's temper and said at times she felt scared of him.

Referring to one particular disagreement, Pistorius conceded that he had been irritable and insecure on the day they argued but insisted they soon resolved the issue.

"My Lady we were at an engagement party. It was a bad day in our relationship."

The athlete told the court he saw the model speaking to a man he did not know and felt "insecure and jealous".

Pistorius said he "wasn't kind" to her as he "should have been".

Roux asked Pistorius to read out a message Steenkamp sent weeks before her death in which she brushed aside the arguments and said she felt a great affinity with Pistorius.

"I know we argue from time to time, but I know we are actually quite similar," the 29-year-old model wrote on January 2013.

Pistorius has been on the stand since Monday, when he began his testimony with a tearful apology to Steenkamp's family and swore that to his mind he had been trying to protect her when he blindly fired the shots that wounded her in the hip, arm and head.

The state contends that he shot her with intent after an argument.

Neighbours called to the stand by the State have testified that they heard a woman scream in fear from the direction of Pistorius's home around the time Steenkamp died.

On Monday, a retired pathologist called by the defence testified that it was unlikely that Steenkamp had time to shout, then conceded, depending on how rapidly Pistorius had fired, that it was possible.

If found guilty, Pistorius could be jailed for life. – Sapa

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