The funeral of Reeva Steenkamp was held today at a private ceremony in Port Elizabeth, while 700 miles away, in a Pretoria court, Oscar Pistorius was charged with her murder. For the first time, Pistorius's lawyer officially offered up the defense he's going to use: that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp, locked in the bathroom, for a burglar.
Premeditated murder is the most serious charge in the South African legal code, and indicates the prosecution believes Pistorius knew exactly what he was doing. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel laid out the series of events: Pistorius and Steenkamp argued, and Steenkamp fled to the bathroom and locked herself in. Pistorius, in bed, strapped on his prosthetic legs. He grabbed a 9mm pistol from under his bed, walked seven meters to the bathroom door, and fired into it four times, hitting her thrice. He then broke down the door with a cricket bat and carried her body downstairs.
Nel: "He got up from a bed, put on his prosthesis, armed himself and walked 7 metres." It's not: "There was someone standing over my bed."— David Smith (@SmithInAfrica) February 19, 2013
Nel: "I walk seven metres, I see a bathroom door, I shoot... The motive is to kill."— David Smith (@SmithInAfrica) February 19, 2013
Pistorius's attorney argued that he mistook Steenkamp for a robber, and said he was prepared to present numerous examples of burglars locking themselves in bathrooms. "This was not even murder," he said.
An affidavit, containing Pistorius's version of events, was read out in court. The full statement can be found here. It reads, in part,
Nothing can be further from the truth that I planned the murder of my girlfriend.
On 13 Feb Reeva would have gone out with her friends, me with mine. She wanted to stay at home.
I was watching TV. My legs were off. She was doing yoga. At the end of the evening we got into bed.
I'm accutely aware of people gaining entries to homes to commit crime, I've received death threats.
I sleep with my 9mm under my bed. I woke up to close the sliding door and heard a noise in the bathroom.
I was scared and didn't switch on the light. I got my gun and moved towards the bathroom. I screamed at the intruder because I did not have my legs on I felt vulnerable. I fired shots through the bathroom door and told Reeva to call police.
I walked back to the bed and realised Reeva was not in bed. Its then it dawned on me it could be her in there.
As the statement was being read, Pistorius began to sob uncontrollably. The magistrate called for a brief adjournment, saying "my compassion as a human being does not allow me to just sit here."
After five hours, the bail hearing was called to a halt and will resume tomorrow. Pistorius will remain in jail.
Today's bail hearing took place in a courtroom packed with family, journalists, and protestors—according to one report, 200 reporters were unable to get in. With cameras allowed in South African courtrooms, and the case featuring the country's most famous athlete, as well as a possible love triangle featuring a national rugby team player, this has the hallmarks of a Trial of the Century. But South African justice moves slowly—the actual trial may not begin for as long as a year.