Mail & Guardian

Pistorius 'absolutely mortified' at loss of Steenkamp

19 Feb 2013 17:53 | Niren Tolsi

Henke and Aimee Pistorius in the Pretoria Magistrate court. (Gallo)

Henke and Aimee Pistorius in the Pretoria Magistrate court. (Gallo)

This according to Olympian Oscar Pistorius in his submission to the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old Pistorius gave his version of the events that led to the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day morning to the court in a written affidavit read out by his legal counsel, advocate Barry Roux.

Pistorius himself cried uncontrollably several times during proceedings, compelling magistrate Desmond Nair to stop the court while Roux was reading out his client's affidavit so that the athlete could gather himself. Nair also asked photographers not to capture the apparently inconsolable Pistorius trying to calm himself while the magistrate left the court during the short adjournment.

Pistorius, who earns R5.6-million per year, faces the charge of premeditated murder for the 29-year-old Steenkamp's death – a charge which carries a life sentence if found guilty.

The sprinter, who competed against able-bodied athletes at last year's London Olympics, painted a picture of young lovers spending a prosaic evening together: Steenkamp practiced yoga while he watched television before they both fell asleep at around 10pm on February 13, according to Pistorius's affidavit.

Detailing the events leading up to the tragic killing of Steenkamp, Pistorius said in his affidavit that he woke up in the "early hours" of February 14 and went to his balcony to bring in a fan, closing the sliding door, blinds and curtains behind him.

"I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom," he stated.

"I felt a sense of terror rushing through me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps."

'Too scared'
Believing there was an intruder in his house, Pistorius stated: "I was too scared to switch a light on. I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/her to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed."

Pistorius then stated that he "noticed that my bathroom window was open. I realised that the intruder/s was/were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed and I did not see anyone in the bathroom. I heard movement inside the toilet. The toilet is inside the bathroom and has a separate door."

"It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. 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. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps."

Pistorius stated that this vulnerability led him to shoot at the bathroom: "I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding."

Pistorius stated that when he reached the bed, he "realised that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help."

According to his affidavit, Pistorius then put on his prosthetic legs and "ran back into the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must have turned on the lights. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door. Reeva was slumped over but alive."

In his affidavit, Pistorius stated that he then called Johan Stander, the administrator of the upmarket, highly securitised Silver Woods Country Estate he lives on in Pretoria East.

He also called Netcare and opened the front door of his home before carrying Steenkamp downstairs. It was there that he was met by the estate's security guards, who were outside.

Pistorius attributed his paranoia about personal safety to being "acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime".

He also stated in his affidavit that he "received death threats before" and was "a victim of violence and of burglars before". This, according to Pistorius, is why he kept a 9mm Parabellum pistol under his bed when he slept.

He said he was "absolutely mortified" by the "loss of my beloved Reeva".

Roux went to great length to portray the young couple as very much in love. He submitted the affidavits of personal and mutual friends, including Justin Divaris and Samantha Greyvenstein, who introduced the two.

According to Greyvenstein who, according to her affidavit was Steenkamp's best friend, the murdered model confided in her that while Steenkamp felt Pistorius was "moving too fast" in their almost three-month-old relationship, she was very much in love with the athlete and would have agreed to marriage if he proposed to her.

Earlier on Tuesday morning state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, in arguing for a schedule six charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius, suggested that, based on the objective facts in its possession, the state would flesh out in its arguments about "the inferences that can be drawn" from a woman in the early hours of the morning, locking herself in the bathroom".

Roux submitted to court that the objective facts the state presented – that Steenkamp was shot three times, behind a locked toilet door, that the distance from bedroom to bathroom was seven metres, that the door was subsequently broken from the outside et cetera – was not enough to point to premeditation.

Court adjourned
When Nair ruled that the bail application would be heard on the schedule six charge, with the rider that this might change when evidence was led during the actual trial, Pistorius broke down again and court was again adjourned.

During the adjournment, Pistorius's family gathered in a circle in the public gallery to pray. His sister, Aimee, looked especially distraught in discussion with Pistorius's counsel later during the lunch break.

Pistorius's legal team made an application requiring more information from the state, including, whether the state is in possession of facts other than those on the charge sheet, witness verification of an alleged argument on February 13 between Steenkamp and Pistorius, and the facts around the state's inference that Pistorius put on his prosthetic limbs before shooting Steenkamp.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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