Conflicting accounts: Pistorius and prosecutors detail Reeva Steenkamp's final moments
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:52AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 20, 2013 6:54PM EST
This week in a Pretoria, South Africa courtroom, two very different accounts are emerging about the precise circumstances that led to double-amputee Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
At least that one fact is agreed upon by both Pistorius and the prosecution. But while Pistorius claims it was a case of mistaken identity, the prosecution argues the so-called Blade Runner planned and carried out a premeditated murder after the couple had an argument.
Following are the two versions of what took place, as filed during the bail hearings this week:
Pistorius' version of events, according to a court affidavit:
- After altering plans which would have seen them spend Valentine's Day evening apart, Pistorius and Steenkamp decided (on her suggestion) to spend the evening together and have a quiet dinner at home. Both had previously planned to go out with separate groups of friends.
- By about 10 p.m. local time on Feb. 13, the couple was in their bedroom in Pistorius' home in Pretoria. She was doing yoga exercises, while Pistorius was in bed watching television, his prosthetic legs detached. "We were deeply in love and could not have been happier. I know she felt the same way," Pistorius said in the affidavit.
- Steenkamp then finished her yoga exercises, got into bed, and both fell asleep.
- During the early morning hours of Feb. 14, Pistorius says he got up and went onto the balcony to bring in a fan and close the sliding doors.
- He then heard a noise in the bathroom and "felt a sense of terror rushing" over him. Pistorius said there were no burglar bars across the bathroom window, and he knew contractors had recently left a ladder outside the house. He said he was too scared to turn on the lights.
- "I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and (I) thought Reeva was in bed."
- At this point, Pistorius said he was still not wearing his prosthetic legs and although he has some mobility without them, felt "extremely vulnerable." He said he knew he had to protect Steenkamp and himself, and felt they would be in grave danger if the intruder came out of the bathroom.
- Pistorius then fired four shots through the bathroom door and shouted to Steenkamp to phone the police. When she did not respond, he backed away from the bathroom, towards the bedroom, and realized that Steenkamp was not in bed: "That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet," he said.
- Pistorius then tried to open the door to the bathroom, but it was locked. He went back to the balcony and screamed for help before putting on his prosthetic legs and trying to kick down the door. When that didn't work, he grabbed his cricket bat to break down the door, and found Steenkamp, who was shot three times, slumped over but alive.
- He then phoned for help, returned to the bathroom, picked up his girlfriend and carried her downstairs with the intent to take her to hospital. As he came downstairs, the estate administrator and a doctor who lives in the same complex arrived: "Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms," Pistorius said.
- "With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in. I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved."
Following is the prosecution's version of events, according to the affidavit:
- The prosecution agreed that both Pistorius and Steenkamp were home when the incident took place on the evening and early morning of Feb. 13-14. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Steenkamp arrived at the home between 5 and 6 p.m. on Feb. 13, the day before Valentine's Day, with plans to spend the night in. "An overnight bag was found in the main bedroom and a cosmetic bag in the bathroom," said the prosecution's affidavit.
- Nel agreed that Pistorius fired four times through the door and that Steenkamp was hit by three of the shots.
- The prosecution provided additional details about the home, saying the bathroom is about six metres from the main bedroom down a hallway, in the upstairs of the house which is located in a secure complex with 24-hour security.
- The prosecution also said the door to the toilet -- which is a separate room inside the bathroom -- was broken down from the outside, likely because it was locked and could not be opened.
- Once he was able to gain access to the toilet, Pistorius carried the victim downstairs where he encountered security guards who had come into the house: "(Pistorius) told his sister that he thought it was a burglar. We argue that this was part of the pre-planning to use as a defense. Why would a burglar lock himself into a toilet? There may have been an argument earlier between (Pistorius) and the deceased," the prosecution's affidavit said.
- The prosecution said there was "no possible explanation" to support the argument that Pistorius thought Steenkamp was a burglar, saying he readied himself, walked to the bathroom with the clear intention and plan to kill, and did so while the individual was "harmless and contained in a toilet."
- In one key difference from Pistorius' account, the prosecution claims he attached his prosthetic legs prior to shooting Steenkamp, not afterwards.
- "It is our respectful argument that 'pre-planning' or premeditation do not require months of planning -- if ... I ready myself and walk a distance with the intention to kill someone, it is premeditated."
- Nel also questioned why Pistorius never once asked: "Where is my girlfriend?" when he heard someone in the toilet. He suggested Pistorius' claim he thought Steenkamp was an intruder was part of a plan to cover his tracks, and therefore further evidence of premeditation.
Pistorius’ bail hearing will continue this week.