News Column

Pistorius Denies Intention to Kill Girlfriend

Feb 19, 2013
Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with premeditated murder, on Tuesday denied that he intended to kill girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp when he shot at a bathroom door in his home.

His lawyer Barry Roux read out the affidavit in which Pistorius, for the first time, provided details of the shooting on Valentine's Day, after the judge confirmed the charge of premeditated murder.

Pistorius, 26, will remain in custody as the bail hearing was adjourned to Wednesday to allow both sides to exchange information about the state's case.

Prosecutors said Pistorius armed himself, put on his prosthetic legs, walked seven metres towards the bathroom, and fired through the door intentionally killing Steenkamp, 29.

"I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder let alone premeditated murder as I did not intend to kill my girlfriend," Pistorius' statement said.

He broke down several times during the hearing, sometimes holding his head in his hands. At one point the session was briefly adjourned so that he could compose himself. His father Henke, and siblings Aimee and Carl, were seated behind him.

Pistorius said they spent the evening of Feb. 13 in his Pretoria apartment. He slept with a 9mm-handgun under his bed, being "acutely aware of violent crimes" in South Africa.

"I believed someone entered my home and I was too scared to put the lights on ... It was pitch dark and I believed Reeva was in bed." He fired his gun out of fear and to protect them both, the lawyer read.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel earlier rejected any claims of mistaken identity, saying Steenkamp was an "innocent and unarmed woman" who was inside a locked bathroom in Pistorius' home when she was shot.

He fired four shots at Steenkamp - three from behind the closed bathroom door, Nel said.

The double amputee athlete, one of the most famous in the world, said it was only after the shooting that he realized she was not in bed.

"That is when it dawned on me that Reeva was in the bathroom," according to Pistorius' statement, read out in a packed courtroom.

He then used a cricket bat to bash in the locked bathroom door, where he found his girlfriend "slumped over, but alive."

"She died in my arms ... I am absolutely devastated."

Prosecutor Nel said earlier while laying out the state's case that Pistorius should not be granted bail: "He prepared. He armed himself. The motive was, he wanted to kill.

"We have the facts. There were two people in the home. (One) was shot dead."

Nel said: "There is no possible explanation to support his report that it was a burglar."

But the defence argued that the fact that the bathroom door was forced open from the outside did not indicate any premeditation, but rather an attempt to save Steenkamp's life.

"We submit it's not even murder," defence lawyer Roux said. "There's no agreement there, not even concession that this is murder."

The defence has asked for more evidence from the prosecution including on allegations that the couple had recently fought.

When asked about the possibility of a conviction, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku said: "We are confident. We are also confident in what the police are doing. They are still currently busy with their investigation."

The premeditated murder charge will likely make it harder for Pistorius to prove he deserves bail, legal experts have said. The athlete pledged not to leave the country or interfere with investigations if he was granted bail.

A small group of women protested outside the court demanding that Pistorius not be freed on bail.

As the bail hearing was under way, Steenkamp was cremated in a private ceremony in the city of Port Elizabeth.

"At certain points (during the service) we were smiling while remembering Reeva because we only have good memories of Reeva," her brother Adam said.

Her uncle Michael said: "We are here today as a family and there is only one thing missing, Reeva." He broke down while making a statement to the media, saying eventually "I will get over it, with the lord's prayers."

The family also noted that Steenkamp was passionate about fighting against the abuse of women, and that her statements would now carry greater weight.

In the affidavit in which Pistorius described how Steenkamp died in his arms, he stated: "We were deeply in love".

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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