Aimee Pistorius, sister of South African Olympic and
Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, cries as he gives
evidence during his trial. REUTERS/Masi Losi/Pool
South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar
Pistorius sobbed in the witness stand as he described how,
gripped by fear, he shot dead his girlfriend through a locked
toilet door thinking she was an intruder.
Taking the witness stand, the double amputee - accused of
murdering 29-year-old law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp
- recounted hearing a window sliding open in his bathroom in
the middle of the night on Valentine's Day 2013.
Conditioned by years of living in crime-ridden South Africa,
Pistorius said the noises convinced him someone was breaking
into his luxury Pretoria home and that he needed to protect
himself and his lover.
"That's the moment that everything changed," he said, his
voice tense with emotion. "I thought that there was a burglar
that was gaining entry to my home."
"The first thing that ran through my mind was that I needed
to arm myself, that I needed to protect Reeva and that I
needed to get my gun," said the 27-year-old, who faces life
in prison if convicted of murder.
Pistorius said he felt in the dark with his fingers, grabbed
a 9mm pistol lying under the bed, then moved on his stumps
down the passageway leading from the bedroom towards the
bathroom and the would-be intruder or intruders.
"I shouted for Reeva to get on the floor and for her to phone
the police. I screamed at the people to get out," he said.
According to his account, as he peered round the door of the
bathroom - his outstretched right hand holding the pistol,
his left hand steadying himself against the wall - he noticed
the bathroom window was open, confirming his worst fears.
"I wasn't sure where to point my firearm. I had it pointed at
the toilet but my eyes were going between the window and the
toilet. I stood there for some time. I'm not sure how long.
"I just stayed where I was and kept on screaming. Then I
heard a noise from inside the toilet that I perceived to be
somebody coming out of the toilet. Before I knew it, I had
fired four shots at the door."
With his ears ringing, he continued to scream for Steenkamp
to call the police, he said, until it slowly dawned on him
that his girlfriend might have been the one behind the door.
"I was screaming and shouting the whole time. I don't think I
have ever screamed or cried like that. I was crying out to
the Lord to help me. I was crying out to Reeva," he said,
choking back the tears.
He then recounted how he bashed out a panel of the wooden
door with a cricket bat to reveal Steenkamp - the woman with
whom he said had been planning on buying a house - slumped on
the floor in a pool of blood.
"I sat over Reeva and I cried," he said, before breaking down
into uncontrollable sobs, causing Judge Thokozile Masipa to
adjourn the hearing for the day.
Pistorius' testimony was broadly in line with a sworn
affidavit he gave at his bail hearing just over a year ago.
At the time, magistrate Desmond Nair pointed to what he said
were a number of "improbabilities" in the version of events.
"I have difficulty in appreciating why the accused would not
seek to ascertain who exactly was in the toilet," Nair said
at the time. "I also have difficulty in appreciating why the
deceased would not have screamed back from the toilet."
Several witnesses have testified to hearing a man's shouts
coming from the house although they have also spoken of the
terrified screams of a woman leading up to and during a
volley of shots. Prosecutors allege that Pistorius and
Steenkamp had a violent argument before he pulled a gun on
The trial, now in its 18th day, has gripped South Africa and
millions of sports and athletics fans around the world who
saw Pistorius as a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.
His disabled lower legs were amputated as a baby but he went
on to achieve global fame as the "fastest man on no legs",
winning numerous Paralympic gold medals and reaching the
semi-finals of the 400 metres in the 2012 London Olympics
against able-bodied athletes.
Earlier, defence advocate Barry Roux led Pistorius through a
series of text messages between himself and Steenkamp that
painted the picture of a young couple besotted with each
other, nearly every message ending in 'xx' or a term of
The image was a far cry from the gun-obsessed, fast-living
hothead whom prosecutors sought to portray in the first three
weeks of the trial.
"I wish I could tuck you in and get you feeling better,"
Pistorius said in one message after Steenkamp complained of
feeling under the weather. "Thank you for being the most
beautiful person to me," she said in another message to him.
However, prosecutors have also used the same cache of
messages retrieved from Pistorius' phone to reveal outbursts
of temper and jealousy.
During his testimony, he also revealed Steenkamp's last
words, spoken to him after he woke hot and uncomfortable in
the early hours of Feb. 14 before going to move some fans and
close the external sliding doors of his bedroom.
"'Can't you sleep, my baba?'" he quoted her as saying from
the bed beside him. "I said 'No, I can't'."
As he outlined his version of events, Steenkamp's mother
June, who had sat steely faced throughout Pistorius' two days
on the stand, leant forward slowly and buried her head in her
Edited excerpts from Pistorius' testimony
Pistorius told the court he heard his bathroom window sliding
open in the middle of the night. Convinced that one or more
intruders were climbing in, he picked up a 9mm pistol from
under his bed and moved towards the bathroom on his stumps.
"I got to the entrance of the bathroom, at the end of the
passage, where I stopped screaming. At this point I was
certain that an intruder or intruders were there in my
"I had my pistol in my right hand and I peered in.
"There was no light in the bathroom. As I slowly peered into
the bathroom, I could see that the window was open indeed.
"At this point I started screaming again for Reeva to phone
the police ... I wasn't sure where to point my firearm. I had
it pointed at the toilet but my eyes were going between the
window and the toilet."
"I wasn't sure if somebody was going to come out of the
toilet and attack me. I wasn't sure if someone was going to
come up the ladder and point a firearm and start shooting. So
I just stayed where I was and I kept on screaming."
"Then I heard a noise from inside the toilet, what I
perceived to be somebody coming out of the toilet. Before I
knew it, I fired four shots at the door."
"My ears were ringing, I couldn't hear anything, so I kept on
shouting for Reeva to phone the police. I was so scared to
retreat because I wasn't sure if there was somebody on the
ladder. I wasn't sure there was somebody in the toilet.
"I don't know how long I stood there. I shouted for Reeva.
"At some point I decided to walk back to the room because I
couldn't hear anything. My ears were ringing.
"I kept on shouting for Reeva, I didn't hear anything. At
this point it didn't occur to me that it could have been
Reeva in the bathroom. I still thought they could be
"I retreated back to the point where I got to the corner of
the bed. I tried to lift myself up while talking to Reeva. No
one responded to me. At that point lifted myself up into the
bed and I thought Reeva was there and I couldn't feel
"At that point the first thing I thought was maybe she got
down onto the floor like I told her to, maybe she was just
scared ... I can't remember what I said but I was trying to
talk out to her.
"It was upon that time, my Lady, that it first dawned upon me
that it could be Reeva that was in the bathroom or in the
toilet. I jumped out of the other side of the bed and I ran
my hands along the curtains to see that she wasn't hiding.
"I didn't want to believe it was Reeva in the toilet, I was
so scared that someone was coming in to attack us. I made my
way inside the bathroom ... I tried to grab the handle, rip
open the door. I pushed the door to open and it was locked.
"I ran back to the room, I opened the curtains, opened the
doors and shouted from the balcony for help. I screamed
'help, help, help'. I screamed for somebody to help me.
"I put my prosthetic legs on. I ran as far as I could back to
the bathroom, I ran into the door. It didn't move at all. I
tried to kick the door but nothing happened."
"I was just panicked. At this point I didn't know what to
make or what to do. So I run back to the bedroom where the
cricket bat was between the cabinet and the door. I was
screaming and shouting the whole time. I don't think I have
ever screamed or cried like that. I was crying out to the
Lord to help me, I was crying out to Reeva, I was screaming.
"I run straight back to the bathroom door, I must have placed
my firearm on the carpet in the bathroom. The light was on at
that stage, I don't remember switching it on but it was on
when I kicked the door. I run straight up to the door and I
started hitting it hard. I think I hit it three times.
"The first time I remember hitting the frame of the door,
there was shock in my hands, I swung again and hit a small
piece open. At that point all I wanted to do was to just look
inside and to see if it was Reeva. I then hit the door, I
think I hit the door three times and there was a big plank, I
grabbed it with my hands and I threw it out into the
bathroom. I tried to open the door from the inside but there
was no key on the door.
"I leaned over the middle partition of the door and I saw the
key was on the floor at that point and all I wanted to do was
climb into the toilet over the middle part of the door. I
took the keys and unlocked door. I sat over Reeva and I
cried, I don't know how long ... I don't know how long I was