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Pistorius thought lover was intruder

Oscar Pistorius in court yesterday.

Oscar Pistorius in court yesterday.

PRETORIA – It was the middle of the night, Oscar Pistorius says, and he thought an intruder was in the house. Not wearing his prosthetic legs, feeling vulnerable in the pitch dark and too scared to turn on the lights, the track star pulled his 9mm pistol from beneath his bed, moved toward the bathroom and fired into the door.

It was only after he called to girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp – whom he thought had been in bed beside him after a quiet evening – that he realised something horrible might have happened, he told Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair in a statement read by his lawyer during his bond hearing today. Prosecutors dispute the version of events that Pistorius detailed in his statement.

Pistorius says he broke down the locked bathroom door – at one point in the statement saying he kicked the door in, at another saying he used a cricket bat to break it down – then scooped up the mortally wounded Steenkamp and carried her downstairs after for help.

“I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms,” he said in the statement. “I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva.”

While prosecutors and defence lawyers agree Pistorius shot Steenkamp, the track star denied intentionally killing her, in the statement read today.

Prosecutors say they believe Pistorius put on his prosthetic legs, picked up his gun and walked to the bathroom where Steenkamp, 29, had locked herself – apparently after a heated argument – and shot at her four times.

Three of the bullets struck Steenkamp, who died soon after. Her funeral was today.

Pistorius spent much of the hearing sobbing and heaving at the mention of his girlfriend’s name, at one point forcing Nair to stop the proceedings to ask him to compose himself. His family stood nearby, huddling during breaks and appearing to pray. During parts of the hearing, Pistorius’ brother placed his hand on the suspect’s back.

Charge upgraded

During today’s hearing, Nair upgraded the charge against Pistorius to premeditated murder, saying he could not rule out the possibility that the track star planned Steenkamp’s death. But Nair said he will consider downgrading the charge later.

The allegation of premeditation makes it more difficult for Pistorius’ attorneys to argue he should be released on bail pending trial. To win bail, the defense must argue that “exceptional circumstances” exist that would justify Pistorius’ release.

The session ended this afternoon with no decision on bail for Pistorius, 26. Prosecutors said they needed time to study the affidavits read in court before deciding how to proceed.

In the statement read by his lawyer, Pistorius said he would not try to flee or influence any witnesses if he is allowed out on bail, and argued that his release wouldn’t be a danger to public order.

The hearing is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning. (CNN)

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