OSCAR Pistorius has given his first full account of how he came to shoot his girlfriend, claiming that he mistook her for an intruder.
A statement from the South African athlete was read out in court today, giving his version of events for the first time. Pistorius broke down and wept uncontrollably as his lawyer read out the account.
The athlete said that he and Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, were "deeply in love" and "could not have been happier".
On the night in question, Pistorius said that he had a 9mm handgun under the bed – a precaution that he normally took. Waking in the summer heat in the early hours of the morning, he went out to the balcony to get a fan.
The athlete had not attached his prosthetic limbs and was walking on his stumps. Suddenly he "heard a noise in the bathroom". Pistorius knew the bathroom window was open and that ladders were accessible nearby. He thought that intruders had entered the house.
"I screamed words to the effect of for him/her to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police," said Pistorius in his statement. "I thought Reeva was in the bed. I felt extremely vulnerable but I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself."
Pistorius then fired four shots through the bathroom door using his handgun. At that moment, he said that he was convinced the unseen target was an intruder. When he returned to the bedroom, he saw his mistake.
"I realised that Reeva was not in the bed," he said. "That's when it dawned on me it must have been Reeva in the toilet."
Pistorius said that he immediately broke into the bathroom and found his girlfriend lying critically wounded but alive. An ambulance was summoned but "Reeva died in my arms".
He added: "I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my darling Reeva. I can't bear to think of the suffering I have caused Reeva and her family, knowing how much she was loved."
The Pretoria magistrates' court is expected to decide on whether to grant Pistorius bail.
The prosecution rejects key elements of his account and is pressing a charge of "premeditated murder".
Pistorius, 26, won two gold medals and one silver at the London Paralympics last year. His deceased girlfriend was one of South Africa's most famous models.
The athlete has often been tearful and traumatised during his appearances in Court "C" in Pretoria. When he broke down earlier on Tuesday, Desmond Nair, the magistrate, held up his hand and intervened. "My compassion as a human being does not allow me to just sit here," he said.
As Pistorius' brother, Carl, tried to calm him, Mr Nair said: "I know it's difficult. You can't go back to the police station not understanding what has gone on here today," he said. "Do you understand?"
"Yes your worship," replied Pistorius.
- David Blair, and Aislinn Laing, Telegraph.co.uk