The disabled South African track star, on trial for murder, also
apologized to the mother of model Reeva Steenkamp, saying he fired
four times through a toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home in the
belief he was defending her from an intruder.
Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, was hit by at least three
rounds fired by Pistorius, one of which — to the head — killed her
almost instantly, the court has heard.
"I was simply trying to protect Reeva," Pistorius told the court at
the start of his testimony. Reeva's mother June Steenkamp, sitting
in the public gallery of the packed Pretoria courtroom, bowed her
head and remained steely-faced.
Since the shooting, 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic star
Pistorius, who faces life in prison if convicted of murder,
testified he had been on anti-depressants and sleeping pills because
of his disturbed state of mind.
"I'm scared to sleep. I have terrible nightmares about things that
happened that night," he said. "I can smell blood. I wake up to
He recounted one occasion when he woke up so scared in the middle of
the night that he crawled into a cupboard before calling his sister,
who came round to sit with him.
"I wake up in a complete state of terror to the point that I would
rather not sleep," he added.
Earlier, during graphic forensic testimony from a defense
pathologist, Pistorius sat in the dock, retching into a bucket.
OBSESSION WITH GUNS
The distraught figure in the witness stand was a far cry from the
gun-obsessed, fast-living hot-head that prosecutors sought to
portray during the first 16 days of the trial.
As well as murder, Pistorius is accused of firing a pistol through
the sun roof of a friend's car while on a public road, and
discharging a handgun underneath the table of a packed Johannesburg
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He has pleaded 'not guilty' to all charges.
The trial, now in its 17th day, has gripped South Africa and
millions of sports and athletics fans around the world who saw in
Pistorius a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.
The sprinter's lower legs were amputated as a baby but he went on to
achieve global fame as the "Blade Runer", a nickname derived from
the carbon fiber prosthetic limbs he wears on the track.
After winning gold medals at the Beijing and London Paralympics, he
stunned the world by reaching the semi-finals of the 400 meters in
the London Olympics against able-bodied athletes.
His defense hinges on his assertion that he mistook Steenkamp for an
intruder hiding in the toilet when he shot her on Valentine's Day
However, several witnesses have testified to hearing the terrified
screams of a woman before and during a volley of shots.
(Writing by Joe Brock; editing by Ed Cropley and Pascal Fletcher)
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