'I'm scared to sleep', tearful Pistorius tells court

Mon Apr 7, 2014 3:55pm EDT
 
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By David Dolan

PRETORIA (Reuters) - His voice trembling with emotion, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand in his own defense on Monday, saying the Valentine's Day shooting of his girlfriend last year had left him sleepless, terrified and plagued by nightmares.

The disabled South African track star, on trial for murder, apologized to the mother of model Reeva Steenkamp, saying he had fired four times through a toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home in the belief he was defending her from an intruder.

Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, was hit by at least three rounds, one of which - to the head - killed her almost instantly, the court has heard.

"I was simply trying to protect Reeva," Pistorius told the Pretoria High Court at the start of his testimony. Reeva's mother June Steenkamp, sitting stony-faced in the packed public gallery, bowed her head.

The 27-year-old Olympic and Paralympic star, who faces life in prison if convicted of murder, testified he had been on anti-depressants and sleeping pills because of his disturbed state of mind since the shooting.

"I'm scared to sleep. I have terrible nightmares about things that happened that night," he said.

"I can smell blood. I wake up to being terrified."

He recounted one occasion when he woke up so scared in the middle of the night that he crawled into a cupboard before calling his sister, who came round to sit with him.   Continued...

 
Oscar Pistorius reacts during his trial at the high court in Pretoria April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Deaan Vivier/Pool