Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius broke down and sobbed uncontrollably Tuesday as he told his murder trial of the moment he realized he had killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The Olympic runner described how he used a cricket bat to smash open the door to his bathroom and found the 29-year-old model inside, not breathing. She had been struck by three of his hollow-point bullets.
"I sat over Reeva and I cried,” he said, shaking with emotion so hard that the trial was adjourned for the rest of the afternoon.
Earlier, the sprinter changed from his customary suit and tie into a T-shirt and shorts – the type of clothes he was wearing the night of the shooting – and walked from the witness box to the bathroom door, which is in the courtroom as an exhibit. He then took off his prosthetic legs and stood on his stumps in front of the door before putting his legs back on and returning to the witness box.
"The first thing that ran through my mind was that I needed to arm myself"
Pistorius testified how he opened fire on a bathroom door after waking to hear a noise that made him fear an intruder had climbed through a window of his luxury home in Pretoria, South Africa, early on Feb. 14 last year.
"That was the moment everything changed," Pistorius said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I thought that there was a burglar that was gaining entry to my home. Initially I just froze. The first thing that ran through my mind was that I needed to arm myself.”
The so-called "Blade Runner" testified that after grabbing a gun from under his bed, he whispered to Steenkamp "to get on the floor" and to call the police.
Pistorius said he feared there was an intruder inside the bathroom ready to "attack me or us."
"I was afraid ... someone was going to start shooting," he added. "I heard a noise from inside the toilet. Before I knew it, I'd fired four shots at the door. There was ringing in my ears.”
"I was crying out for the Lord to help me"
After initial panic, he said that "it first dawned on me that it could be Reeva inside the toilet" rather than an intruder.
"I didn’t want to believe that it could be Reeva inside the toilet," Pistorius said. "I jumped out and ran my hand along the curtain to see that she wasn’t hiding behind the curtain."
He added: "I shouted from the balcony for help, I screamed for somebody to help me. I put my legs on ran as fast as I could into the bathroom. I was just panicked at this point. I didn’t know what to make or what to do.
“I was screaming and shouting the whole time. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed liked that. I was crying out for the Lord to help me.”
Pistorius explained that he feared the intruder "could come at me at any time” during the incident, because “I didn't have my legs on."
Earlier, Pistorius admitted being "jealous" as the court heard text messages the couple had exchanged following an argument. "I'm scared of you sometimes," Steenkamp had written to him following a fight at a party in late January.
Pistorius also told the court how the law graduate had cooked him dinner hours before she was fatally shot.
The pair had not made any special plans for the following day, which was Valentine's Day.
"We both made a thing about not making a big thing out of Valentine’s Day," he said. "I hadn’t made plans for the 14th. I had a dentist appointment in the morning, Reeva wasn’t going to stay at my house."
He was asked about whether the couple had bought each other gifts.
"I had brought Reeva a bracelet from a designer she had liked," he said, shaking when talking about her gift to him.
“There was a wrapped present on the kitchen,” Pistorius said. After her death he opened it and it had been a photo frame with four pictures of the couple together.
It was the second day of evidence from Pistorius, who on Monday made a tearful apology to Steenkamp's family.
The sprinter also told the court he was now on medication and suffered from panic attacks and had a long-held fear of crime, which he says contributed to him firing through the bathroom door. On Monday, he testified he had "simply trying to protect Reeva."
The trial continues.
Aliza Nadi of NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published April 8 2014, 3:32 AM