Oscar Pistorius: Shooting was a mistake

JON GAMBRELL AND GERALD IMRAY
Last updated 02:40 20/02/2013
Reuters

Reeva Steenkamp's coffin is carried into Port Elizabeth crematorium as suspect Oscar Pistorius arrives at a Pretoria courthouse. Travis Brecher reports.

FELT 'HORROR AND FEAR': Oscar Pistorius awaiting the start of proceedings in the Pretoria Magistrates Court.
Reuters
FELT 'HORROR AND FEAR': Oscar Pistorius awaiting the start of proceedings in the Pretoria Magistrates Court.
'WAS IT TO KILL HER, OR WAS IT TO GET HER OUT?: A mourner leaves, holding a picture of model Reeva Steenkamp, after her memorial service at the Victoria Park Crematorium in Port Elizabeth.
Reuters
'WAS IT TO KILL HER, OR WAS IT TO GET HER OUT?: A mourner leaves, holding a picture of model Reeva Steenkamp, after her memorial service at the Victoria Park Crematorium in Port Elizabeth.

Model's family talk of their loss

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Oscar Pistorius has told a packed courtroom that he shot his girlfriend to death by mistake, thinking she was a robber. The prosecutor called it premeditated murder.

The double amputee said in an affidavit read by his lawyer at his bail hearing that he felt vulnerable because he did not have on his prosthetic legs when he pumped bullets into the locked bathroom door.

Then, Pistorius said in the sworn statement, he realised that model Reeva Steenkamp was not in his bed.

"It filled me with horror and fear," he said.

He put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick down the door, then bashed it in with a cricket bat to find Steenkamp, 29, shot inside. He said he ran downstairs with her, but "she died in my arms".

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel overnight charged the 26-year-old athlete and Olympian with premeditated murder, alleging he took the time to put on his legs and walk some seven metres from the bed to the bathroom door before opening fire.

A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in jail.

The Valentine's Day shooting death has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolised Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian.

Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday, two days after her death.

The magistrate ruled that Pistorius faces the harshest bail requirements available in South African law.

Nel told the court that Pistorius fired into the door of a small bathroom where Steenkamp was cowering after a shouting match. He fired four times and three bullets hit Steenkamp, the prosecutor said.

"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," prosecutor Nel argued. "It must have been horrific."

Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer, Barry Roux, insisted the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

"Was it to kill her, or was it to get her out?" he asked about the broken-down door. "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder."

He said the state had provided no evidence that the couple quarrelled nor offered a motive.

Nel rebutted: "The motive is 'I want to kill."'

As details emerged at the dramatic court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp's body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth. The family said members had arrived from around the world.

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Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

After the hour-long ceremony, relatives stood outside and friends paid their condolences, hugging Steenkamp's parents, in the serene wooded area dotted with tombstones.

"It was a total shock. It is only sinking in right now," said former classmate Bongiwe Gaxamba, 29, wearing the blue blazer with yellow stripes from their high school.

Just days before she was killed, Steenkamp sent tweets offering her support for Booysen and the victims of sexual violence in the country.

Reeva's uncle, Mike Steenkamp, told reporters through tears after the funeral his niece wanted to be an activist for ending abuse against women.

"Unfortunately it has swung right around, but I think that the Lord knows that her statement is more powerful now."

Reeva's brother Adam told reporters: "There's a space missing inside all the people that she knew that can't be filled again. We are going to keep all the positive things that we remember and know about my sister.

"We will miss her."

- AP

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