Paralympian Oscar Pistorius appeared for a dramatic day of arguments in a Pretoria court Tuesday, where he faces a murder charge for killing his girlfriend.
“I had no intention to kill my girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp,” Pistorius’ lawyer read as the runner dissolved into tears in the steamy courtroom, crammed with spectators and journalists from around the world.
So began Pistorius’ account of the events that led to Steenkamp's death, as the two legal teams wrangled over whether he should be released on bail ahead of his murder trial.
Pistorius contends he thought his girlfriend of three months was a burglar in his heavily guarded home, and that he shot through the bathroom door without realizing that the blonde model was no longer in his bed.
“We were deeply in love and I could not be happier,” he said in the affidavit, read by his lawyer, Barry Roux. “I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine’s Day but asked me only to open it the next day.”
A woman holds a photo of Reeva Steenkamp as she leaves her funeral in South Africa, February 19, 2013.
The tale is as dramatic as Pistorius’ own life story: born without fibula bones, he won gold at the Paralympics, then became the first double-amputee to run in the Olympics, competing in the 400 meters last August in London. He is nicknamed the 'blade runner' for his carbon fiber prosthetics.
But prosecutor Gerrie Nel gave a different version of what happened in Pistorius’ home on February 14. The picture he painted was a vivid one: Pistorius, he said, attached his prosthesis, walked seven meters to a nearby bathroom and shot Steenkamp four times through the locked door. Nel told the court that Pistorius then broke down the door from the outside, carried her body downstairs, and called a friend to say that he thought Steenkamp was a burglar. That claim, Nel said, shows that Pistorius planned the murder.
Magistrate Desmond Nair agreed, saying premeditation can not be ruled out. That means the defense will face an uphill battle in securing bail for the runner.
Bail arguments will continue Wednesday. Nel promised a tough fight and some tantalizing details.
Prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said he expects the bail hearing could last all week. "There are so many cases that can be longer than this. We believe that by Friday we'll have wrapped up the whole bail application," Simasiku said. "By Friday we hope, we believe it can happen."
Meanwhile, Steenkamp's family held a private service for her Tuesday in her coastal hometown of Port Elizabeth.