Emotional Pistorius recalls girlfriend Reeva's final hours

PRETORIA (AFP) - Oscar Pistorius tearfully recalled the final hours spent eating and chatting with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp before he shot her dead on Valentine's Day 2013, during a second emotional day of testimony on Tuesday.

The athlete's voice quavered and tears welled up as he described how the couple discussed a contract she was signing before going to his bedroom where she did yoga.

"Usually after dinner we would have watched TV downstairs, but we both had a taxing day," Pistorius recalled.

Instead they retreated to the bedroom where he also chatted on the phone to a cousin and she surfed websites before falling asleep, he testified.

Pistorius is charged with deliberately shooting 29-year-old Steenkamp dead, but he claims he shot her through a locked toilet door believing she was an intruder.

Earlier, Pistorius described how he met the vivacious law graduate and how they quickly grew closer. He said they had begun to plan a future together.

"The first six days we knew each other we called each other every day," he said.

"I was very keen on Reeva," he said. "We started really seeing a future with each other." He also said, however, that he believed that, "if anything I was more into her, than she was at times with me".

The star Paralympian was in tears as he read reams of transcribed cell phone messages he and Steenkamp sent each other during their four-month relationship.

In one typical message the aspiring actress affectionately said "I love you, boo".

Pistorius also sought to explain text messages in which Ms Steenkamp said she was frightened about his behaviour.

"I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will act towards me," Ms Steenkamp said.

Pistorius said: "I just think it was a bad hour in our relationship," describing a fight at an engagement party.

Pistorius took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with a white handkerchief as he read messages sent shortly before Ms Steenkamp died bloodily in the hail of bullets he unleashed in his home.


Pistorius's initial evidence has focused on countering the prosecution's portrayal of him as reckless and obsessed with fast cars and guns.

He began on Monday by issuing a tearful apology to the Steenkamp family.

"I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved," he said choking back tears, his voice faltering.

"There isn't a moment, or hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about your family."

Ms Steenkamp's mother June looked on from the public tribunal stone-faced.

He spoke of a difficult childhood, exposure to crime and the challenges of growing up disabled.

Pistorius also testified about three unrelated charges: two of firing a gun in separate incidents and one for the possession of illegal ammunition, found in a safe at his home.

He is likely to remain on the stand most of the week as his extensive testimony led by his defence team is expected to be followed by gruelling and lengthy cross-examination by the prosecution.

Cape Town-based criminal advocate William Booth, who is not participating in the trial, said much will depend on how Pistorius holds up in that second phase.

"Oscar's evidence can only be properly assessed once he's been cross-examined," Mr Booth said.

In the five weeks since the trial began, Pistorius has appeared fragile and sometimes annoyed, frequently crying in court.

He was physically sick when the gruesome details of Steenkamp's death were discussed.

A key question will be, "Is he emotionally stable (enough) to testify if he's breaking down all the time?" Mr Booth said.

"One would rather have him in a better state of mind when he testifies."

Pistorius has hired an extensive team of forensic experts, including an American animation firm that will visually depict the crime scene using three-dimensional computer-generated images.

The experts will have to cast doubt on the state's version of events, including testimony from witnesses who said they heard a woman screaming on the night of the killing, which would show Pistorius knew his target was Ms Steenkamp.

His lawyer Barry Roux said he will call 14 to 17 witnesses in his case to testify on ballistics, urine emptying, damage to the toilet door, sound, and "disability and vulnerability".

The trial is slated to run to at least mid-May.