An emotional Oscar Pistorius took to the stand on Monday and started giving evidence in his murder trial in Pretoria.
The double amputee called the ‘Blade Runner’ began his testimony with an apology to Reeva Steenkamp’s family, saying he was “simply trying ton protect” her, in a trembling voice.
The trial was delayed for more than a week after one of the assessors assisting the judge fell ill.
Prosecutors says Mr. Pistorius murdered his girlfriend Steenkamp- a reality TV celebrity and a law graduate- in February 2013 after an argument.
The Paralympic champion denies shooting her deliberately, saying he mistook her for a intruder.
Mr. Pistorius told Miss Steenkamp’s relatives he could not imagine their pain.
Miss Steenkamp’s mother, June, sat stony-faced while the athlete spoke on.
He said there “hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family.
“I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for, I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I’ve caused you and your family.
“I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved.
I’ve tried to put my words on paper many, many times to write to you. But no words will ever suffice.”
Mr Pistorius said he is taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills because he “is afraid to sleep”.
He says he wakes in the night “in terror.”
The athlete, 27, talked about his difficult childhood after being born with parts of both legs missing and needing to wear prosthetic limbs.
He says he got his first prosthetic legs at the age of 13 months.
While detailing his family background, Mr. Pistorius talked about his ties with his late mother, stressing she was very important to him.
“I grew up in a loving home. My father was not often around… we grew up mostly with my mother.
“My parents separated when I was young and my mother passed away when I was 15.
“It was very unexpected”, Mr. Pistorius says of his mother’s death. “Everything I learnt in life I learnt from her”.
“My mother didn’t ever want me to see my disability as something that would hold me back… She didn’t baby me.
Mr. Pistorius says his mother had a lot of security concerns when he was growing up and that she would often call the police because there was a lot of crime near the family home.
He said his mother even kept a firearm under her pillow in a padded bag.
When asked about his faith, Pistorius said: “Religion is very important to me”, but admits he struggled with his faith following the passing on of his mother.
He even adds meeting Steenkamp was a blessing as he has always wanted a Christian girl.
Trial was adjourned early after defence says Pistorius is exhausted. Pistorius says he didn’t sleep last night.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux said he will call 14 to 17 witnesses in his case to testify on “ballistics, urine emptying, damage to the toilet door, sound, and disability and vulnerability”.