Oscar: ‘Moment that everything changed’

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IOL _SAFRICA-PISTORIUS-_0408_11 REUTERS Oscar Pistorius, centre, arrives to attend his trial at the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius has started describing the night he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Defence advocate Barry Roux is leading the athlete through a detailed version of the fateful evening at the High Court in Pretoria.

Pistorius told the court that on February 13, 2013, Steenkamp had come to sleep over at his home. The athlete had met with friends during the day, but came back home in the early evening. When he arrived home, Steenkamp was preparing dinner. He went upstairs to bath and change his clothes.

Pistorius said he accessed his iPad while talking to her when he first arrived, looking at images of cars. He had lain on his bed and used it as well before changing, and after his bath.

At around 7pm, he went downstairs, where he and Steenkamp had dinner. The couple spoke about his day and her new modelling contract at the dining room table. She had asked him to go through the contract, which she was about to sign. He helped her make some changes, to avoid anything that would affect her negatively.

After cleaning the dishes, she offered him something to drink. The pair then went upstairs at around 8pm.

IOL news apr 8 South Africa Pistorius Trial~23 June Steenkamp, centre, mother of the late Reeva Steenkamp, listens as Oscar Pistorius testifies in court in Pretoria. Picture: Kim Ludbrook AP

He said he went into his bedroom and opened the balcony doors because it was a humid evening. He said the house had been under renovation for some time, and his air conditioning was broken. He opened the sliding doors and placed two fans, one tripod and one smaller, by the balcony door.

He said he had put up thick curtains in his room because of his occasional unusual sleeping patterns. When the curtains are drawn, he said it was difficult to see anything in the room.

He closed and locked the bedroom door - a nightly habit - and lodged his cricket bat near the door because the lock wasn't strong.

He then put on his alarm system, but he said it didn't have any door monitors and the outside beams were not active.

Pistorius then took off his prosthetic legs to let them air. He texted his cousin while the couple watched TV, and Steenkamp also browsed a social network and some other websites on her phone.

While he called his cousin, Steenkamp started doing yoga stretches next to the bed. Pistorius said he was chatting for about a half hour. Steenkamp went to the bathroom, and when he finished his call, she asked him to come and brush his teeth.

He told the court he had placed his gun under the base of the bed.

He climbed on to the left side of the bed, which was unusual he said. He told the court a shoulder injury meant he couldn't lie on his right side.

Steenkamp was still sitting up in bed when he started to fall asleep. He asked her to turn the fans off and lock up and she said she would.

Roux then asked him about whether he had a Valentine's Day gift for Steenkamp. He had bought a charm bracelet for the model, and had made plans to meet her in Joburg the next day at the jewellery shop.

He said the couple didn't want to make a “big thing” out of Valentine's Day, and that they'd planned an intimate dinner.

The night of the 13th, Steenkamp had placed a wrapped present on the kitchen counter with a card marked “Ozzie”. He said he only opened it on August 8 last year, which he said was Reeva’s birthday. It was a photo frame she made with four photos of her and Pistorius. Pistorius became choked up when he mentioned the gift.

Roux then asked about the clothes he was wearing the night of the shooting. Pistorius said he was wearing a pair of shorts.

The court then adjourned briefly to allow Pistorius to take off his suit to show the court his prosthetic legs.

Roux asked Pistorius to stand close to the reconstructed bathroom door in the courtroom to show his height.

He was then asked to take off his prosthetics and to stand by the door.

Pistorius stood against the door, significantly shorter and leaned against it.

Pistorius then returned to the stand, to continue his version of what happened after he went to sleep.

Pistorius said he had gone to sleep between 9 and 10pm, but only woke up in the early hours of the 14th of February. The heat had woken him up, and he sat up in bed.

Pistorius then noticed his fans were still running and his balcony door was still open.

Steenkamp rolled over and asked him if he couldn't sleep.

He got up and took the fans and placed them further inside the room and closed the curtains.

The only light was an LED on the amplifier. He could see Steenkamp's jeans on the floor. He picked them up and was going to place them over the light to block it.

At this point, he heard a window opening in the en suite bathroom.

“That was the moment when everything changed,” said Pistorius. He said he thought a burglar was breaking into his home.

He thought that just 3 or 4 metres away, an intruder could be lying in wait. He went to the bed to grab his gun, and took it out of the holster. Pistorius said he wanted to get to the passage to get between the person he thought was in the bathroom and Steenkamp.

He slowed down, with his firearm in front of him. He whispered for Steenkamp to phone the police.

As he entered the passage, he said he was overcome with fear and began shouting. He shouted for Steenkamp to get on the floor and call the police. He also shouted at the perceived intruder to get out of the house.

As he went further in, he felt that the intruder could attack at any time, and he felt even more fear because he wasn't wearing his prosthetic limbs.

He worried about putting his head around the corner into the bathroom in fear of getting shot. He then heard the toilet door slam, and he went into the bathroom thinking someone had hidden inside the toilet cubicle. As the defence requested a picture of the passage between the bedroom and bathroom, Pistorius broke down in the stand, his body lurching forward as he grabbed his reddening face.

Wiping his brow, he was able to identify his bathroom passage that was presented to the court.

Earlier in the day, Pistorius's legal team chose to first address the other charges the athlete faces, delaying him from detailing the night of the shooting.

Roux asked Pistorius about the first incident on September 30, 2012 when he allegedly recklessly fired a gun out of his friend Darren Fresco's car sunroof.

Pistorius said after leaving an event at the Vaal River in Fresco's car, with his then-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor. He said that metro police pulled over the car because it did not have a front licence plate. After the Grasmere Plaza, they were pulled over again.

He said he was carrying his firearm, but wanted to help diffuse the situation where Fresco was arguing with the officers outside the car. Pistorius left his gun in the car. A police officer noticed the gun on the seat, asking who it belonged to. He admitted it was his, and asked for the officer to return it.

According to Pistorius, the “aggressive” officer then dropped the magazine and ejected a bullet from the chamber before dropping it back on to the car seat. Pistorius was questioned about his firearm licence, but said the officer lost his temper and walked away.

Another police officer helped Pistorius find the bullet that had fallen between one of the seats. Pistorius said he was irritated, and thought Fresco would be arrested for speeding.

Pistorius went back to the car, followed by Fresco a few minutes later with a written fine, and they drove off.

He denied having fired the bullet out of the sunroof, despite Fresco and Taylor testifying about the incident during earlier testimony.

“It never happened,” Pistorius told the court.

Pistorius was then asked about the third charge, based on an incident where he accidentally discharged a fire arm at the Melrose Arch Tasha's in January 2013.

Pistorius had been meeting with friends at the restaurant. He admitted that Fresco had passed him the gun under the table.

He said he'd asked to see it because he wanted to purchase a similar one.

“It was stupid of me,” he said.

But when it was handed to Pistorius, the gun went off, prompting silence in the crowded restaurant. The athlete said Fresco had made the mistake of giving him the loaded firearm with the safety off.

Fresco told management at the restaurant that the gun had fallen out of his pants. Pistorius denied Fresco's earlier testimony, stating that Fresco had taken the blame to help the athlete avoid bad publicity.

Pistorius said Fresco had been the one to tell him not to say anything about what had happened.

Pistorius also claimed he apologised and told management that he would pay for the damages to the restaurant.

“I was overcome with fear that someone could have been hurt,” said Pistorius.

He then told Fresco afterwards that if the media heard about the incident it would be interpreted in the worst way possible.

Pistorius also responded to the fourth charge, that he possessed illegal ammunition.

He said he had licensed all of his ammunition.

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