Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial adjourned yesterday after his lawyers said he was exhausted by a lack of sleep and an emotional first day of testimony.
“Well, he does look exhausted, he sounds exhausted,” Judge Thokozile Masipa said while granting the defense an adjournment until today.
Earlier in the day, Pistorius fought through tears to apologize to the family of his slain girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, as he took the witness stand in his defense.
Stammering and with his jaw trembling, Pistorius told the court he did not intend to kill the 29-year-old Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
The Paralympic gold medalist is accused of premeditated murder, but claims he shot the model though a locked toilet door thinking she was an intruder.
“I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Mr and Mrs Steenkamp,” he said, at times barely audible due to the intensity of his sobs. “I was trying to protect Reeva, I want people to know that she was loved when she went to bed that night.”
In the tribunal, the late model’s mother, June Steenkamp, was flanked by relatives as she sat stony-faced during the apology. She has sat through gruesome evidence, including brutal images of her dead daughter, for weeks.
“I tried to put my words on paper to write to you, but no words can ever suffice,” he said.
The athlete cut a broken, emotional figure as he spoke publicly for the first time about the night Steenkamp died.
“I’ve had terrible nightmares,” since that night, he said, adding: “I wake up at night smelling blood.”
He also said that since the shooting he has been taking sleeping pills and anti-depressants.
Pistorius said that on one occasion, he woke in the middle of the night and crawled into a cupboard because he was so scared. After five weeks of prosecution testimony, yesterday was the first day of Pistorius’ defense.
After calling a pathologist, Pistorius took to the stand, outlining his problems since the shooting and his early life growing up disabled and without his father present.
“My mother had a lot of security concerns, we grew up in a family where my father wasn’t around much, she would often get scared at night, she would phone the police,” he told the court.
“My mother had a pistol,” he added. “She kept her firearm in a padded bag under her pillow.”
She died when Pistorius was aged 15.
“When she passed away it was very unexpected,” he said. “We weren’t informed that she was sick and by the time we were she was in a coma.”
In the five weeks since the trial began, Pistorius has appeared fragile and annoyed, frequently crying and being physically sick when the gruesome details of Steenkamp’s death were discussed.
He has said little since his “not guilty” plea besides the occasional “yes, milady” to Masipa.
How the “Blade Runner” will hold up in cross-examination may prove a turning point in the case.