PRETORIA, South Africa: Star Paralympian Oscar Pistorius returned to the witness box at his murder trial on Tuesday, insisting he and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp had a loving relationship and saw a future together before he shot her dead on Valentine’s Day.
Pistorius sat before a packed courtroom wearing a dark grey suit describing how the couple met and gradually began to plan their future, a day after an emotional first day on the stand that saw him issue a tearful apology to the victim’s family.
The Paralympic gold medalist is accused of premeditated murder over Steenkamp’s killing in February 2013, but claims he shot her through a locked toilet door believing she was an intruder.
On Tuesday, the athlete known as the “Blade Runner” described how he met the model at a track day car event.
“The first six days we knew each other we called each other every day,” he said.
“I was very keen on Reeva,” he said, adding “I think if anything I was more into her, than she was at times with me.”
Called as witness in his own defense, Pistorius has insisted he and the 29-year-old law graduate, model and aspiring actress had a loving relationship and sought to explain text messages in which Steenkamp said she was scared of him.
“I just think it was a bad hour in our relationship,” he said, describing a fight at an engagement party.
Steenkamp had sent Pistorius a message saying: “I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will act toward me.”
Steenkamp’s mother June attended Tuesday’s hearing along with Steenkamp’s friend Gina Myers, who was wearing tags that bore a black-and-white print of the model.
On Monday, Pistorius made a tearful apology to Steenkamp’s family.
“I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved,” he said choking back tears, his voice faltering.
“There isn’t a moment, or hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family,” Pistorius added.
Fast cars and guns
Pistorius’ initial evidence has focused on countering the prosecution’s portrayal of him as reckless and obsessed with fast cars and guns.
He has spoken of a difficult childhood, exposure to crime and challenges of his disability.
He is likely to remain on the stand most of the week as his extensive testimony is expected to be following by grueling and likely lengthy cross-examination.
Besides answering a charge of murder, Pistorius also has to testify about three unrelated charges: two of firing a gun in separate incidents and one for the possession of illegal ammunition, found in a safe at his home.
Cape Town-based criminal advocate William Booth said much will depend on how Pistorius stands up to cross-examination.