Oscar Pistorius broke down in sobs and howls while giving evidence at his murder trial, forcing the court to adjourn as the star athlete was describing the moments he said he first realised he had shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a toilet door in his home last year.
“I sat over Reeva and I cried,” Pistorius said, telling how he broke open the stall door in his bathroom to discover his mortally wounded girlfriend inside and slumped over in the cubicle.
“I don’t know how long I was there for,” Pistorius said.
Pistorius has said he shot Ms Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder in his bathroom. Tuesday marked the first time he has spoken publicly on the details of the shooting.
Prosecutors call Pistorius’s story an intricate lie and maintain he intentionally killed his girlfriend, a model and reality TV show star, after an argument.
On the witness stand Pistorius began to cry loudly, forcing the judge to rule a brief adjournment. Pistorius did not stand up when the judge left, and also started to wail as he sat slumped over on the witness stand, his head in his hands.
His brother and sister went over to him in an apparent attempt to comfort him and he left the courtroom through a side door, still crying.
When Judge Thokozile Masipa returned, she called an early adjournment. Pistorius had by that time appeared to compose himself and had returned to sit, jaw clenched, in the witness box.
Pistorius was testifying about how he broke down the toilet door after shooting four times through it, and finding a gravely injured Ms Steenkamp inside.
“At that point all I wanted to do was just look inside to see if it was Reeva,” Pistorius said, his voice shaking and starting to cry before breaking down in sobs.
Earlier, Pistorius said that he heard a window open in his bathroom in the early hours of February 14, 2013, causing him to believe intruders had entered his house and to race to get to his gun to defend himself and his girlfriend, who he claims he thought was still in bed.
“That’s the moment that everything changed,” Pistorius said. He described what he said were the terror-filled moments before he shot dead Ms Steenkamp, and removed his prosthetic legs in court to show how he stood by the toilet door which he fired into.
The actual bullet-riddled toilet door was set up in the Pretoria courtroom to show how the shooting took place.
Pistorius claims he was not wearing his prosthetics – and therefore felt more vulnerable – when he shot through the door to kill Ms Steenkamp.
In the courtroom, he sat on a wooden bench and took off his prosthetics and approached the bullet-marked toilet door to show his diminished height.
The Olympian is charged with premeditated murder over Ms Steenkamp’s death and faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years before parole if convicted on that charge.
In the courtroom, Pistorius was asked by defence lawyer Barry Roux to stand by the bullet-marked toilet door, which has been in the courtroom as an exhibit for much of the trial, while wearing his prosthetics.
Dramatically, Pistorius then sat on a wooden bench and took off his prosthetics and again approached the wood door.
It was to show how tall he stood next to it while standing on his stumps next to it.
Pistorius also said he was not to blame for a shot going off in a busy Johannesburg restaurant because a friend handed him an “unsafe” gun with a bullet in the chamber under the table.
Pistorius was into his second day of evidence. He is charged with premeditated murder over Ms Steenkamp’s death and faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years before parole if convicted on that charge.