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Defence says Pistorius believed he was shooting at burglar

DEEPLY IN LOVE: Pistorius told the court he mistook his girlfriend for a robber

OSCAR PISTORIUS has denied he murdered girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last Thursday (February 14) at his home in Pretoria, South Africa. Although the history-making double amputee Olympian conceded he fatally shot her, he maintained the narrative that his mistook her for an intruder.

The crowded court at the bail hearing in Pretoria heard that Pistorius loved Steenkamp and that he did not intentionally kill her.

This explanation of mistaken identity was one of the first theories to surface after 29-year-old’s death became public on the morning of St Valentine’s Day. Police denied they were the source of the theory and dismissed it.

This morning the prosecution had the floor at the bail hearing and confirmed they were seeking a charge of premeditated murder. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court Pistorius had put on his prosthetic legs, walked seven metres (24ft), before firing his 9mm pistol at the bathroom door – resulting in Steenkamp being shot four times.

This version of events comes after police confirmed there had been “previous” incidents of domestic trouble at the household concerning the couple.

However, in a sworn statement from Pistorius, read to the court by defence lawyer Barry Roux, said the pair had been “deeply in love”.

The defendant’s account states he and Steenkamp went to bed at 10pm and that he woke up later on during the night and went to the balcony because he thought he had heard an intruder.

“It was pitch-dark in the bedroom. I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable,” the statement read, which then added Pistorius believed his girlfriend was still in bed when he fired his weapon at the bathroom door.

Once he discovered Steenkamp was not there, Pistorius said he was “filled” with “horror and fear”.

The statement further added that the athlete broke down the door, learning she was shot inside. “She died in my arms. I am absolutely mortified at the death of my beloved Reeva”, it read.

The Paralympian, who won gold medals at the Athens, Beijing and London Games, cried as he heard his lawyer read out his statement.

The hearing, taking place on the same day as Steenkamp’s funeral in Port Elizabeth, was adjourned until Wednesday.

Once both arguments had been heard, the judge ruled the Paralympian should face a “Schedule 6” charge – premeditated murder. Nonetheless, the magistrate retained the right to downgrade his ruling whenever necessary.

The sprinter’s defence team face an uphill struggle to enable him to be bailed. Police have argued against bail, but Pistorius’ lawyers have argued he poses no flight risk or danger to the general public.

If found guilty of the charge, Pistorius could be handed a sentence of life imprisonment. Police have held him in a local Pretoria police station cell since his arrest. Normal procedure in the country sees defendants transferred to the local prison.

However, the authorities saw no reason to in this case, which drew criticism from some quarters that the sports star was receiving special treatment.

The case and impending trial is generating significant interest in South Africa and the world, largely because of Pistorius’ hard-luck story of overcoming the odds – being born without fibula bones in both legs – and going on to be the first track and field athlete to compete in both Paralympics and Olympics.

The mother of Pistorius’ late girlfriend, June Steenkamp, spoke of her grief to one of the country’s national newspapers.

"All we want are answers... answers as to why this had to happen, why our beautiful daughter had to die like this", she told Times of South Africa.

Yet the father of the athlete, Henke Pistorius, maintained that he had "zero doubt" Steenkamp’s death was the result of a tragic accident.

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