Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius has started his testimony at his murder trial in Pretoria by apologizing to the family of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
An emotional Oscar Pistorius said he was “trying to protect” Reeva Steenkamp and said he could not imagine their pain.
Oscar Pistorius said he suffered “terrible nightmare” and often woke up smelling Reeva Steenkamp’s blood.
Prosecutors say Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013 after an argument. He says he mistook her for an intruder.
Oscar Pistorius told Reeva Steenkamp’s relatives that there “hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family”.
“I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I’ve caused you and your family.
“I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.
“I’ve tried to put my words on paper many. many times to write to you. But no words will ever suffice.”
The athlete said he is taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills.
“I’m scared to sleep, I have terrible nightmares, I can smell blood and wake up terrified,” he said.
Oscar Pistorius added that he never wanted to handle a gun again.
The trial in Pretoria was delayed for a week after one of the assessors assisting the judge fell ill.
Defense 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.”
Earlier, Oscar Pistorius’ defense team called on pathologist Jan Botha as its first witness.
Jan Botha, a private pathologist who said he has carried out about 25,000 autopsies, was asked about gastric emptying and calculating Reeva Steenkamp’s time of death.
Earlier in the trial, the state called forensic pathologist Gert Saayman who said vegetable matter in Reeva Steenkamp’s stomach suggested she had eaten around two hours prior to her death, which contradicted Oscar Pistorius’ version of events.
Jan Botha disputed this conclusion, saying that determining the time of death through gastric emptying is guesswork, calling it a “highly controversial and inexact science”.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was fierce in his cross-examination of Jan Botha and sought to suggest that his evidence was unreliable since he did not attend Reeva Steenkamp’s autopsy and worked from photograps.
The pathologist accepted that he was “not a ballistician” after appearing to contradict the state’s account of the sequence of shots that killed Reeva Steenkamp.
But he insisted he was not there to “win the case for either the defense or the prosecution” after being accused by Gerrie Nel of making his findings fit with the defense case.
“I’m here to assist the court,” Jan Botha said.
Oscar Pistorius held his head in his hands and sobbed loudly as Reeva Steenkamp’s injuries were discussed.
The trial has already heard 15 days of prosecution-led testimony, which has relied on accounts from neighbors and specialist ballistics experts, as well forensic and mobile phone evidence.
One neighbor, Michelle Burger, told the court she was awoken by a woman’s “terrible screams” followed by gun shots.
Oscar Pistorus aims to convince the court that the screams were his, and that he shot Reeva Steenkamp through a closed toilet door because he had mistaken her for an intruder.
Defendants who choose to testify are the first defense witnesses in South Africa but Jan Botha was allowed to testify first because of a family illness.
The defense is also likely to address key questions, including allegations that Oscar Pistorius, 27, was reckless with guns and in not checking the whereabouts of his girlfriend before he opened fire.
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