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Oscar Pistorius gives his account of girlfriend's shooting death

February 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A defense lawyer read Oscar Pistorius' account of how he shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine's Day in court during a bail hearing Tuesday.

The 26-year-old athlete wept as his version of the story was told. He claims he had mistaken 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder. He said he felt vulnerable because he did not have his prosthetic legs on, so the double-amputee fired into the bathroom door.

The Olympian said in his sworn statement that he then put on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the door before finally bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp slumped over. Pistorius said that only after opening fire did he realize that Steenkamp was not in his bed.

"She died in my arms," the athlete said. "It filled me with horror and fear."

But prosecutors allege Pistorius opened fire after the couple engaged in a shouting match, and she fled to the bathroom. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the packed courtroom that Pistorius intentionally and mercilessly shot and killed his model girlfriend as she cowered inside a locked bathroom.

"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," Nel said. "It must have been horrific."

A major point of contention emerged when Nel said Pistorius took the time to put on his prostheses, walked seven meters (yards) from the bed to the enclosed toilet inside his bathroom and only then opened fire. Three of the bullets hit Steenkamp of the four that were fired into the door, Nel said.

Pistorius has been charged with premeditated murder. If convicted, the athlete faces a life sentence.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair ruled that Pistorius must face the harshest bail requirements available in South African law. That means Pistorius' lawyers must offer "exceptional" reasons for the athlete to be free before trial, besides simply giving up his two South African passports and posting a cash bond.

Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer, Barry Roux, insisted the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

"We submit it is not even murder," he said. "There is no concession this is a murder."

Pistorius' emotional outbursts again played a part in how the hearing progessed, as it did during an initial hearing Friday.

"Maintain your composure," the magistrate said. "You need to apply your mind here."

As the dramatic court hearing was under way, Steenkamp's body was cremated at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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