PRETORIA, South Africa — Early on Feb. 14, Oscar Pistorius says, he heard a strange noise from inside his bathroom, climbed out of bed, grabbed his 9 mm pistol, hobbled on his stumps to the door and fired four shots.
“I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated,” Pistorius said in an affidavit read Tuesday to a packed courtroom by his defense lawyer, Barry Roux. “I had no intention to kill my girlfriend.”
Prosecutors painted a far different picture, one of a calculated killer, who had the presence of mind and calm to strap on his prosthetic legs, walk 20 feet to the bathroom door and open fire as his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, cowered inside, behind a locked door.
“The applicant shot and killed an unarmed, innocent woman,” Gerrie Nel, the chief prosecutor, said in court Tuesday.
That, Nel argued, amounted to premeditated murder, a charge that could send Pistorius to prison for life.
In court, Pistorius, a Paralympic track star who competed against able-bodied athletes at the London Olympics despite having lost both his lower legs as an infant, wept uncontrollably as Roux gave the runner’s account of the fateful early morning. At one point, Magistrate Desmond Nair called a recess to allow Pistorius, who was sobbing loudly, his face contorted, to regain his composure.
As the defense and prosecution laid out their versions of the shooting, some details were beyond dispute.
Pistorius and Steenkamp were alone in the house, having spent the evening there. Around 3 a.m., Pistorius shot Steenkamp through the bathroom door, fatally wounding her. He broke down the door and carried her down the stairs, where she died in the foyer of his upscale home.
The young woman, a model, was cremated Tuesday on the other side of the country in her hometown, Port Elizabeth. Her family and friends mourned her and called for the authorities to deal harshly with Pistorius.
“There’s a space missing inside all the people that she knew that can’t be filled again,” her brother, Adam Steenkamp, said.