PRETORIA: His voice trembling with emotion, Oscar Pistorius (pictured) took the witness stand in his own defence yesterday, saying the Valentine’s Day shooting of his girlfriend last year had left him sleepless, terrified and plagued by nightmares.
The disabled South African track star, on trial for murder, apologised to the mother of model Reeva Steenkamp, saying he had 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, one of which — to the head - killed her almost instantly, the court has heard.
“I was simply trying to protect Reeva,” Pistorius told the Pretoria High Court at the start of his testimony. Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp, sitting stony-faced in the packed public gallery, bowed her head.
The 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic star, 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 since the shooting.
“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.”
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 said, adding that his faith had helped pull him through.
“There have been times when I’ve just been struggling a lot,” he said, fighting to maintain his composure.
“My god is my god of refuge.”
Earlier, during graphic forensic testimony from a defence pathologist, Pistorius retched into a bucket in the dock.
The distraught, bespectacled figure was in stark contrast to the gun-obsessed, fast-living hothead that prosecutors had described in 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 under the table of a packed Johannesburg restaurant.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Now in its 17th day, the trial has gripped South Africa.