PRETORIA, South Africa April 8, 2014 -- Oscar Pistorius sobbed loudly on the stand today as he described how he discovered that he had killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a day of powerful and emotional testimony.
After firing through a locked bathroom door at what he thought was a burglar, Pistorius said he retreated to the bedroom, his ears ringing from the gunshots. The legless paralympian was on his stumps. He called to Steenkamp in the dark bedroom, still aiming his gun towards the bathroom.
"I was talking to Reeva... Nobody responded to me. I lifted myself up and put my hand on the bed. I thought Reeva was there and I didn’t feel anything," he told the court.
He thought she might have gotten down on the floor to hide.
"I think it was at that point, My Lady," he told Judge Thokozile Masipa, "it first dawned upon me that it could be Reeva in the bathroom on the toilet."
Pistorius said he jumped off the bed and ran his hand along the curtains to make sure she wasn’t hiding behind them.
Pistorius said he made his back toward the bathroom with "mixed emotions," afraid of an intruder and afraid of who might really be behind the door. When he found the door locked, Pistorius said that he ran back to the bedroom, opened the curtains on his balcony and began screaming for help.
His testimony was punctuated with long pauses as Pistorius clearly struggled to keep his composure.
"I was screaming and crying the whole time. I don’t think I ever screamed or cried like that. I was screaming for God to help me," he said through rising sobs. Spectators in the courtroom also were crying.
Pistorius said he put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick in the door and failed. He grabbed a cricket bat and began bashing at the door, finally breaking through enough to reach in and grab a key on the floor and let himself in.
"I got the door unlocked and flung the door open and I sat over Reeva and I cried," Pistorius wailed. "I don’t know how long. I don't know how long I was there. She wasn't breathing."
Pistorius was unable to continue, his loud sobs filling the courtroom.
The judge called for a break and when she returned, court was adjourned for the day. After the judge left the bench, Pistorius crumpled against the witness stand, weeping loudly.
Earlier, Pistorius wobbled on his stumps as he relived the predawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013.
Pistorius is accused of murdering Steenkamp and could face at least 25 years in prison if convicted.
His defense lawyer Barry Roux asked Pistorius to physically demonstrate his height in relation to the bathroom door, which was in the courtroom, with and without his prosthetic legs.
The legless paralympian known as Blade Runner said that he woke up in the middle of the night because it was hot and humid in his room. He says when he woke up, Steenkamp was also awake and asked: "Can’t you sleep, Baba?"
Earlier that night he put two fans in the sliding doors of his bedroom as his air-conditioning system was not working. He got out of bed and went over to adjust the fans and before he got back to the bed he claims he heard a window in his bathroom slide open.
"My Lady, that's the moment that everything changed," he told the judge. "I thought there was a burglar that gained entry to my house,"
“The first thing that ran through my mind was that I needed to arm myself, get my gun,” he said.
Describing to the court how he made his way around his bed without his prosthetic legs in the dark to grab his gun, Pistorius said he was scared the person was going to come out of the bathroom and into his bedroom, as the two rooms were only divided by a passageway, with no door or security gate.
"I wanted to put myself between the person and Reeva. I had my arm, with my firearm out in front of me. I whispered to Reeva to phone the police."
"As I entered the passage to the bathroom where the closet is, I was overcome with fear. I shouted for them to get out of my house … I shouted at Reeva to phone the police," he testified.
Pistorius, 27, said he stopped shouting when he got close to the bathroom, as he feared the intruder or intruders would be able to tell where he was. Pistorius said that his eyes were darting from the bathroom door to an open window, and his gun was pointed ahead of him.
As he neared the bathroom, he heard a door slam and knew it had to be the toilet cubicle's door.
"That confirmed for me there was someone in the bathroom," he said was was "just overcome with fear."
"I perceived to be somebody coming out of the toilet. Before I knew it I had fired four shots at the door," he said. "My ears were ringing. I couldn’t hear anything, so I shouted, I kept on shouting for Reeva to phone the police."
The paralympic athlete known as Blade Runner dropped his head into his hands and started crying as he was asked to look at a photo of the passage to his bathroom, before the court adjourned for a lunch break.
Earlier he testified how he locked his bedroom door and placed a cricket bat in front of it to prevent someone from opening the door if they manage to unlock it or break the lock.
Pistorius began his testimony today discussing his relationship with Steenkamp, reading messages between the couple aloud to the court. The messages reveal fights between the couple, but also loving moments, of two people learning to trust one another.
The messages also show Steenkamp's struggles in dealing with the attention that came with dating Pistorius.
While the court heard testimony about the couple’s relationship, Pistorius’ ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor tweeted, "Last lies you get to tell ... You better make it worth your while." She later deleted the tweet.
Pistorius disagreed with Taylor's testimony that he fired a shot through the open sunroof of a car. While he admitted to handling a firearm that went off inside a busy restaurant, he says he thought at the time that his friend, Darren Fresco, who handed him the loaded weapon, shared the responsibility. Fresco offered to take the blame and Pistorius says he was extremely glad that no-one got injured in the incident. When Fresco testified about the incident, he said that Pistorius asked him to take the blame.
Pistorius first took the stand Monday, crying repeatedly, his voice wavering as he discussed the night Steenkamp died.
"There hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family. I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, you’re the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine that the pain and sorrow and the emptiness that I caused you and your family," he said.
"I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved. I’ve tried to put my words on paper many times to write to you but no words would ever suffice," Pistorius said.
If convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius could be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.