An emotionally distraught Oscar Pistorius took the stand in his defense today and began with an apology to the family of his former girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
When Pistorius first started speaking, his voice was so low and broken by sobs the judge had to ask him to speak up. Pistorius began again addressing Steenkamp’s family:
“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, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow … I caused your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.”
Pistorius killed Steenkamp when he fired four shots through a toilet door in his house. Three of those struck Steenkamp, who was behind the door. Prosecutors say Pistorius murdered her after a fight, and have portrayed him has prone to rage, obsessed with firearms, and with a sense of entitlement.
Pistorius has maintained that he thought he was shooting at an intruder, and his testimony today was aimed at establishing his character and his struggle to overcome his lack of legs, which the defense says has left him feeling particularly vulnerable to physical threat and robbery.
Both versions rely in part on different theories about the order and the effect of the shots on Steemkamp — did she scream out, as the prosecution says, or was she hit in a way that would have made her unable to scream, as the defense has argued?
If convicted, Pistorius faces a minimum of 25 years in prison.
The BBC’s Milton Nkosi joins Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti to discuss the ongoing trial.
- Milton Nkosi, BBC correspondent based in South Africa. He tweets @nkosi_milton.