Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Shooting was an accident, Pistorius tells hearing

AP, PRETORIA

Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius appears in a magistrate’s court in Pretoria, South Africa, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Oscar Pistorius yesterday told a packed courtroom that he shot his girlfriend to death by mistake, thinking she was a robber. The prosecutor called it premeditated murder.

The double amputee said in an affidavit read by his lawyer at his bail hearing that he felt vulnerable because he did not have on his prosthetic legs when he pumped bullets into the locked bathroom door. Then, Pistorius said in the sworn statement, he realized that model Reeva Steenkamp was not in his bed.

“It filled me with horror and fear,” he said in the statement.

He put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick down the door, then bashed it in with a cricket bat to find Steenkamp, 29, shot inside. He said he ran downstairs with her, but “she died in my arms.”

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel yesterday charged the 26-year-old athlete and Olympian with premeditated murder, alleging he took the time to put on his legs and walk about 7m from the bed to the bathroom door before opening fire.

A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in jail.

The magistrate adjourned the bail hearing until today.

The Valentine’s Day shooting death has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track, besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp was a model and law graduate.

Nel told the court that Pistorius fired into the door of a small bathroom where Steenkamp was cowering after a shouting match. He fired four times and three bullets hit Steenkamp, the prosecutor said.

“She couldn’t go anywhere. You can run nowhere,” Nel said. “It must have been horrific.”

Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux insisted the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

“Was it to kill her, or was it to get her out?” he asked about the broken-down door. “We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder.”

He said the state had provided no evidence that the couple quarreled nor offered a motive.

As Roux read the statement, Pistorius was crying uncontrollably, to the point magistrate Desmond Nair had to halt proceedings for several minutes.

“You need to concentrate on what’s going on,” Nair told him.

As details emerged at the court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp’s body was being cremated at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth.

The family said members had arrived from around the world. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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