Oscar Pistorius: I was more into Reeva Steenkamp than she was me

Oscar Pistorius: I was more into Reeva Steenkamp than she was me
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:48am

Oscar Pistorius told the court at his trial Tuesday that he was "more into" the girlfriend he's accused of murdering, Reeva Steenkamp, than she was into him.

In his second day of testimony the double-amputee runner known as the Blade Runner delved deeper into his relationship with the girlfriend he shot dead more than a year ago -- and he is expected to explain what happened the night she died.

"If anything I was more into her at times than she was with me ... I was besotted with her," he told the court in Pretoria, South Africa.

Pistorius has cried, covered his face and plugged his ears, and thrown up repeatedly as earlier witnesses have talked about how Steenkamp suffered, so the moment when Pistorius is forced to discuss the killing himself could be dramatic.

Steenkamp's mother, June, was again present in court Tuesday but betrayed no reaction as she listened to hear his testimony.

The couple met on November 4, 2012, Pistorius said, a little more than three months before she died.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux took Pistorius through some of the texts and chat messages exchanged between the couple, as he sought to show that theirs was a loving relationship.

Some of the messages, including ones in which Steenkamp voiced unhappiness about Pistorius' actions, formed part of the prosecution case heard last month. The prosecution contends that Pistorius deliberately shot Steenkamp after an argument early on February 14.

In one lengthy WhatsApp message previously cited in court, Steenkamp said,"I'm scared of you sometimes and how u snap at me and of how you will react to me."

Pistorius sought to explain the background to the message Tuesday, saying it was sent on the day of their friend Darren Fresco's engagement party.

"It was a bad day in our relationship," he said. "I think I was just being sensitive, maybe I felt a bit insecure or jealous ... I wasn't kind to her like I should have been."

He sounded emotional as he read another upset message from Steenkamp, in which she said, "I can't be attacked by outsiders and be attacked by you as well, the one person I deserve protection from."

The message, sent on February 7, a week before Pistorius killed her, referred to an evening out after which they argued. He said that Steenkamp had received hate mail for dating him.

But in other, affectionate messages read out in court the pair used pet names like "baba" and "angel," said they missed each other and exchanged many "x"s, or kisses.

In one such message, Steenkamp told Pistorius, "Baby I love spending time with you and sleeping next to you."

He replied, "I love having you sleeping next to me baba."

He also described how on one occasion when Steenkamp came to his house, he sprinkled roses on the floor and had chocolates and a heart on his bed to welcome her.

Pistorius: 'She felt loved'

When he first took the stand Monday, Pistorius began with an emotional apology to Steenkamp's family, saying he woke up thinking of them and praying for them every day.

"I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I have caused you and your family. ... I can promise you that when she went to bed that night, she felt loved," he said, his voice breaking as if he was fighting back tears.

Pistorius, who says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder in his house in the dark, testified that he has been suffering nightmares since the killing and wakes up smelling blood.

He told the Pretoria court that he is afraid to sleep, and "if I hear noise, I wake up just in a complete state of terror." He said he is on medication, including an antidepressant and sleeping pills.

It was the first time he has spoken in public about Steenkamp's death, which he says was an accident. He pleaded not guilty to murder when the high-profile trial opened last month.

June Steenkamp sat stony-faced as South Africa's onetime Olympic golden boy choked out his statement.

Judge Thokozile Masipa also betrayed no emotion as Pistorius spoke but did once ask him to talk louder, saying she could hardly hear him.

After his apology, Pistorius talked through his childhood, including his mother's encouraging him to play sports despite his double amputation.

He described his mother's surprise death when he was 15, his charity work and religious faith, and the times his family had been victims of crime.

But he did not talk about Valentine's Day last year, when, he admits, he shot Steenkamp three times. He's thought likely to do that Tuesday.

Childhood remembered

Pistorius, 27, is accused of intentionally murdering Steenkamp, 29.

Monday was the first day of the defense phase of the trial, following three weeks of prosecution in March.

The defense team will call 14 to 17 witnesses, Roux said as he opened his case.

The prosecution rested its case on March 25 after 15 days and 21 witnesses.

Pistorius took the stand late Monday morning after pathologist Jan Botha finished testimony about when Steenkamp last ate and the wounds she suffered.

Roux spent much of the day trying to build up a picture of Pistorius as a dedicated athlete, responsible person and devoted Christian who was "bowled over" by his love for Steenkamp.

Pistorius was also prompted to talk about his awareness of crime, including having come to the aid of victims of crime.

Talking about his childhood, Pistorius said his mother kept a firearm in a padded bag under her pillow. His father was often not around, and Pistorius said his mother would sometimes wake her children up, thinking they were being burgled.

He said she was very supportive of him and "never made me feel any different from the rest of the kids."

"Everything I learned in life, I learned from her," he said.

She had encouraged him to be a normal child and participate in sports despite his disability, he said. She died suddenly when he was 15.

Roux took him through his athletic triumphs, including his success as a Paralympic sprinter, but also highlighted times he felt vulnerable or afraid.

He was badly injured in a boating accident in 2009, he said, which left him "a lot more vigilant about losing my life ... more fearful."

And he said he cannot stand still without his prosthetics on, which could be key to his defense.

He says he fired his gun because he would have been unable to defend himself or run away when he heard what he thought was a burglar.

Roux asked for court to adjourn for the day about 20 minutes early after Pistorius testified that he did not sleep the previous night.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel seemed to be on the verge of objecting when Masipa intervened, saying, "He does look exhausted."

Trial to last until mid-May

Pistorius admits that he killed Steenkamp, firing four shots through a closed door in his house in the early hours of February 14, 2013. Three hit her, with the last one probably killing her almost instantly, according to the pathologist who performed the autopsy.

But Pistorius says he thought she was a nighttime intruder in his pitch-black house and believed he was firing in self-defense.

The trial, which began on March 3, is scheduled to continue until the middle of May.

Masipa will decide the verdict in collaboration with two experts called assessors. South Africa does not have jury trials.

In South Africa, premeditated murder carries a mandatory life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison. Pistorius also could get five years for each of two unrelated gun indictments and 15 years for a firearms charge he also faces.

If he isn't convicted of premeditated murder, the sprinter could face a lesser charge of culpable homicide, a crime based on negligence.

The sentence for culpable homicide is at the judge's discretion.

CNN's Richard Allen Greene reported and wrote from London; Nicola Goulding reported from Pretoria, South Africa, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Emily Smith and Marie-Louise Gumuchian and legal analyst Kelly Phelps contributed to this report. 

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