People

Published: Tuesday April 8, 2014 MYT 7:50:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 9, 2014 MYT 3:47:41 PM

'Too scared to sleep' Pistorius tells court, apologises to Reeva's parents

An emotional Pistorius takes stand in own defence at murder trial and tells of sleepless nights haunted by nightmares and ‘the smell of blood’.

His voice cracking with emotion, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand in his own defence on Monday, saying the Valentine’s Day shooting of his girlfriend last year had left him sleepless, terrified and plagued by nightmares.

Sleepless in Pretoria: Olympic track athlete Oscar Pistorius seen inside the courtroom during the murder trial of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. – Reuters

The disabled South African track star, on trial for murder, also apologised to the mother of model Reeva Steenkamp, saying he fired four times through a toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home in the belief he was defending her from an intruder.

Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, was hit by at least three rounds fired by Pistorius, one of which – to the head – killed her almost instantly, the court has heard.

“I was simply trying to protect Reeva,” Pistorius told the court at the start of his testimony. Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp, sitting in the public gallery of the packed Pretoria courtroom, bowed her head and remained steely faced.

Since the shooting, 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic star Pistorius, who faces life in prison if convicted of murder, testified he had been on anti-depressants and sleeping pills because of his disturbed state of mind.

“I’m scared to sleep. I have terrible nightmares about things that happened that night,” he said. “I can smell blood. I wake up to being terrified.”

Pistorius has been seen visibly shaken at times during the murder trial. When the prosecution presented photographic evidence of the crime scene, the athlete retched into a bucket. 

He recounted one occasion when he woke up so scared in the middle of the night that he crawled into a cupboard before calling his sister, who came round to sit with him.

“I wake up in a complete state of terror to the point that I would rather not sleep,” he added.

Earlier, during graphic forensic testimony from a defence pathologist, Pistorius sat in the dock, retching into a bucket.

Obsession with guns

The distraught figure in the witness stand was a far cry from the gun-obsessed, fast-living hothead that prosecutors sought to portray during the first 16 days of the trial.

As well as murder, Pistorius is accused of firing a pistol through the sun roof of a friend’s car while on a public road, and discharging a handgun underneath the table of a packed Johannesburg restaurant.

He has pleaded ‘not guilty’ to all charges.

The trial, now in its 17th day, has gripped South Africa and millions of sports and athletics fans around the world who saw in Pistorius a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.

The sprinter’s lower legs were amputated as a baby but he went on to achieve global fame as the ‘Blade Runer’ – a nickname derived from the carbon fibre prosthetic limbs he wears on the track.

After winning gold medals at the Beijing and London Paralympics, he stunned the world by reaching the 400m men’s semi-finals in the London Olympics against able-bodied athletes.

His defence hinges on his assertion that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder hiding in the toilet when he shot her on Valentine’s Day last year.

However, several witnesses have testified to hearing the terrified screams of a woman before and during a volley of shots. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, People, Sport, People, South Africa, Oscar Pistorius, trial, murder, Reeva Steenkamp, defence, scared, sleepless, testimony, homicide

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