Oscar Pistorius was set to return to the stand Wednesday after an uncontrollable breakdown while testifying during his murder trial on shooting his lover and finding her lifeless body.
The court will hear testimony on when he found Reeva Steenkamp in a pool of blood, after he broke down the door through which he fired four shots in the early morning hours of Valentines’ Day last year.
It is also possible prosecutor Gerrie Nel will start cross-examination, a tough experience on the 27-year-old’s third day on the witness stand. He will endure probable hard treatment from a lawyer that has been likened to a bulldog.
Pistorius faces a life sentence if found guilty of deliberately murdering Steenkamp on February 14, 2013, a charge he denies.
“I was overcome with fear,” the athlete testified in a trembling voice Tuesday, speaking out publicly for the first time about shooting dead Steenkamp, 29, at his Pretoria home on February 14, 2013.
“Before I knew it, I’d fired four shots at the door,” he said, describing his actions after he thought an intruder had made a noise in the bathroom in the dead of night.
He explained how the couple had gone to bed around 10pm after a quiet evening, but that he woke up to bring inside two fans he had put on a balcony to cool his bedroom.
At that point he knew Steenkamp was awake and they exchanged a few words.
“That’s the moment that everything changed,” he described the moment he heard a sound coming from the bathroom.
On hearing the noise, and then a window opening, he whispered to his 29-year-old girlfriend in bed to call the police, the court heard.
He grabbed his gun, and rushed without his prostheses to the bathroom shouting for the intruder to get out.
He then fired at the door, and ran back to the bed only to find that the model was not there.
Steenkamp lay mortally wounded when her boyfriend broke down the cubicle door with a cricket bat, after he failed to kick it in.
“I sat over Reeva,” the athlete testified Wednesday crying loudly. He put his head in his hands and let out the barely intelligible cry, “she wasn’t breathing”.
His uncontrollable sobs prompted an early adjournment for the day.
Pistorius’s initial evidence focused on countering the prosecution’s portrayal of him as reckless and obsessed with fast cars and guns.
From Monday defence lawyer Barry Roux had gently painted the portrait of a young man marked by a fatherless childhood, the early death of his mother, physical disability and recurring crime.
Pistorius had begun his second day of testimony with a description of how he met the vivacious law graduate and how they quickly grew closer.
Roux also dealt with three other unrelated charges against the accused: firing a gun through a moving car’s sunroof, then again in a crowded restaurant, and also the possession of illegal ammunition.
Though these might not have come before court in different circumstances, it is possible prosecutors added them to the murder charge to attempt a character sketch of Pistorius.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
Pistorius is likely to remain on the stand most of the week as his extensive testimony is expected to be followed by gruelling and lengthy cross-examination.
In the five weeks since the trial began, the world-famous Paralympian has appeared fragile and sometimes annoyed, frequently crying in court.
He was physically sick when the gruesome details of Steenkamp’s death were discussed.
The model’s mother June has sat impassively in the public gallery throughout his testimony, even when the sprinter turned to her and apologised Monday for killing her daughter.
His lawyer Barry Roux said he would call up to 17 witnesses in his case to testify on ballistics, urine emptying, damage to the toilet door, sound, and “disability and vulnerability”.
Eventually set down for three weeks, the trial could run until mid-May, possibly even longer.