News

Ilse de Lange
3 minute read
8 Apr 2014
6:00 am

Sobbing Oscar says sorry

Ilse de Lange

Oscar Pistorius's fall from a jet-setting celebrity to a broken man unable to sleep and plagued by nightmares and the smell of blood has never been more clearly demonstrated than when he took the stand in his own defence yesterday.

FILE PICTURE: Paralympian Oscar Pistorius is seen at the high court in Pretoria on Monday, 7 April 2014. The athlete is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp whom he shot dead through a locked toilet door at his Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year. He claims he mistook her for an intruder. Picture: Deaan Vivier/Media24/Pool

Pistorius admitted he shot and killed his “dream” girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s day last year, but claimed it was a tragic accident as he thought she was a burglar.

Pistorius kicked off his evidence with an emotional apology to Steenkamp’s parents, her family and friends.

Speaking in a hesitant, broken half-whisper, a tearful Pistorius turned to Reeva’s mother June when he apologised for what he did.

“I’d like to apologise and say that there hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about the family.

“When I wake up you’re the first people I think of and pray for.

“I can’t imagine the pain, sorrow and emptiness I caused your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise when she went to bed that night she felt loved.

“I’ve tried to put my thoughts on paper but no words would suffice,” he said.

Pistorius testified that he had been “bowled over” by how much he had “fallen” for Reeva and that he had put in an option to buy a house in Johannesburg for them.

He had grown up religious and knowing God was his refuge and had regarded Reeva, a very strong Christian, as a blessing in his life.

He said Steenkamp used to pray for him every night about his training and all of the small things in his life.

“My religion is the thing that got me through this last year. There’s been times when I’ve just been struggling a lot… Um, my God is my God of refuge,” an emotional Pistorius said.

The trial had to adjourn early after Pistorius said he was exhausted, because he could not sleep last night and experienced the weight of the trial as overbearing.

Earlier in the day, Pistorius sketched a picture of a jet-setting lifestyle as an internationally recognised professional athlete, travelling between athletics meetings, sponsorship commitments and charity obligations.

He was out of the country for the best part of the year and travelled extensively when he was at home.

However, he also sketched a picture of a man who was on a cocktail of anti-depressants, sedatives and sleeping pills, scared to sleep at night because he had terrible nightmares about that fateful night when he killed Steenkamp.

“I’m scared to sleep for several reasons. I have terrible nightmares about the things that happened that night, when I wake up and I can smell blood.

“I wake up terrified. I always wake up just in a complete state of terror, to a point where I would rather not sleep,” he said.

Pistorius said he sought medical help in April last year because he could not sleep and had lost a lot of weight.

He testified about an incident earlier this year when he woke up and was so terrified that he climbed into a cupboard and phoned his sister to come and sit with him.

“Obviously, I never want to be around a firearm. I have a security guard outside my front door at night,” he said.