Oscar Pistorius Case: Olympic star charged with premeditated murder

Olympian Oscar Pistorius, foreground, stands following his bail hearing, as his brother Carl, centre, and father Henke, right, look on, in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. Pistorius fired into the door of a small bathroom where his girlfriend was cowering after a shouting match on Valentine's Day, hitting her three times, a South African prosecutor said Tuesday as he charged the sports icon with premeditated murder. The magistrate ruled that Pistorius faces the harshest bail requirements available in South African law. He did not elaborate before a break was called in the session. (AP Photo-Masi Losi-Pretoria News) SOUTH AFRICA OUT
Masi Losi
Oscar Pistorius (left) stands following his bail hearing in Pretoria, South Africa, on Feb. 19, 2013
AP Photo-Masi Losi-Pretoria News

(CBS/AP) PRETORIA, South Africa - Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius told a packed courtroom Tuesday that he shot his girlfriend to death because he thought she was a robber. But the prosecutor argued it was premeditated murder.

PICTURES: Olympic athlete charged with murder

In an affidavit read by his lawyer at Pistorius' bail hearing, the double amputee said he felt vulnerable because he did not have on his prosthetic legs when he shot bullets into the locked bathroom door. Then he realized that model Reeva Steenkamp was not in his bed, Pistorius said.

"It filled me with horror and fear," he said.

He put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick down the door and then bashed it in with a cricket bat to find 29-year-old Steenkamp shot inside. He said he ran downstairs with her, but "she died in my arms."

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel charged 26-year-old Pistorius with premeditated murder on Tuesday, alleging he took the time to put on his legs and walk some seven yards from the bed to the bathroom door before opening fire. A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in jail.

Pistorius was born without fibula bones and had them amputated when he was 11-months-old. The man was known as Blade Runner because of his running prostheses, and gained international attention for overcoming adversity last year by becoming the first double-amputee track athlete to run at the Olympics. Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday just two days after her death.

The magistrate ruled that Pistorius faces the harshest bail requirements available in South African law.

Nel told the court that Pistorius fired into the door of a small bathroom where Steenkamp was hiding after a shouting match. He fired four times and three bullets hit Steenkamp, the prosecutor said.

"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," Nel said. "It must have been horrific."

Pistorius' lawyer, Barry Roux, insisted that the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

"Was it to kill her, or was it to get her out?" he asked about the broken-down door. "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder."

He said the state provided no evidence that the couple quarreled nor offered a motive.

Nel rebutted: "The motive is 'I want to kill.'"

Steenkamp's body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth. The family said members arrived from around the world. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

Complete coverage of Oscar Pistorius on Crimesider