Pretoria - “Can’t you sleep, my baba?” These were the last words spoken by model Reeva Steenkamp, shortly before she was gunned down and killed by Oscar Pistorius.
During a day of drama on Tuesday, Pistorius broke down in loud, wailing sobs as he testified how he sat over Steenkamp in the toilet, after discovering he had shot his girlfriend. “I sat over Reeva and I cried. I don’t know how long I sat there,” he testified.
Through sobs and hardly audible, Pistorius continued: “She was not breathing.”
Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned the proceedings at this point as it became evident that Pistorius was not in a state to continue testifying.
Pistorius sat with his head in his hands, his raw cries echoing through the High Court in Pretoria. His brother Carl and sister Aimee rushed to his side.
His siblings held him for several minutes before leading him outside. Steenkamp’s mother June, meanwhile sat stone-faced, looking at Pistorius.
While several members of the public and the Pistorius family sat dabbing their eyes, June Steenkamp reached over to a friend next to her, who was also crying and consoled her.
Pistorius returned to the witness stand after 10 minutes, but his advocate, Barry Roux, told the judge Pistorius’s shirt was sopping wet. “I cannot responsibly ask the court to carry on today,” he said. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, said in response: “We will be ready tomorrow.”
It was the second day the court had to adjourn early as Pistorius had a breakdown in the witness stand.
Pistorius testified how he woke up in the early hours of February 14 last year, as it was extremely hot.
He noticed that the fans he had earlier switched on were still running and that the door leading to the balcony was open.
Just before he fell asleep, he asked Steenkamp, who was still on her phone, to close the door and to bring in the fans which were partially standing on the balcony.
“Reeva was still awake. She rolled over to me and said ‘can’t you sleep, my baba?’ “
Pistorius said he got up, and placed the fans inside the room before he closed and locked the sliding door and drew the blackout curtains.
A sobbing Pistorius said: “It was at this point that I heard a window open in the bathroom… I could hear it hitting the frame. It is at that moment that everything changed.”
Pistorius said he was under the impression a burglar was gaining entry into his home. “I think I just froze. I heard this noise and I interpreted it as someone climbing into the bathroom… They could be there any moment.
“The first thing which went through my mind was that I needed to get my gun, that I needed to protect Reeva and I.”
Pistorius grabbed his firearm from underneath his bed and on his stumps went towards the bathroom, holding his firearm in front of him.
“Just as I left the bed I whispered to Reeva to get down and phone the police.”
He said that as he neared the bathroom leading from his bedroom, he was overcome with fear.
“I started screaming for the burglar to get out of my house. I shouted for Reeva to get down and phone the police. I shouted at the person to get out of my house.”
Pistorius said that as he entered the bathroom he stopped shouting, as he was scared the person would know where he was.
“I then heard a door slam which could have only been the toilet door, confirming to me there were people in the bathroom.”
Pistorius at this point appeared to be vomiting and a court orderly rushed to his side, handing him the green plastic bucket in which he had vomited several times during the trial.
Pistorius explained how, holding on to the wall to keep his balance on his stumps, he held his firearm out in front of him, in search of the intruder or intruders.
He shouted several times at Steenkamp to phone the police. He is yet to explain how it came about that she did not answer him during this time, which according to his version, must have taken several minutes.
“I fired four shots. My ears rang and I again called to Reeva.”
Pistorius said he made his way back to the bedroom, where he felt for Steenkamp on the bed, but there was nothing.
He checked the floor and behind the curtain thinking she could be hiding. She was not there either.
Then it struck him.
The person he had shot could be Reeva. Noises he heard coming from the locked bathroom door, prompting him to open fire, could have been made by his “Boo”.
He walked back to the bathroom and realised the door was locked. He ran back to the bedroom to put on his prosthetic legs.
“I did not want to believe it was Reeva in there. I opened the curtains and shouted from the balcony, then screamed ‘Help, help… help’ for somebody to help me. I was panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I was screaming and shouting the whole time,” he testified.
He ran back to the bathroom and started kicking down the door. The first kick landed on the door frame, he said. “I don’t think I ever screamed like that or cried like that. I was crying out for the Lord to help me, I was crying for Reeva. I was screaming.”
At this point, Pistorius collapsed in hysterical sobs and Judge Masipa adjourned court until Wednesday morning.