Oscar Pistorius cries in court, says he shot girlfriend by mistake

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PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius wept Tuesday as his defense lawyer read the Olympic athlete's account of how he shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine's Day, claiming he had mistaken her for an intruder.

Prosecutors told a packed courtroom that the double amputee known as the Blade Runner intentionally and mercilessly shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp, 29, as she cowered inside a locked bathroom.

Pistorius, 26, told the Pretoria Magistrate's Court at a bail hearing he heard what he believed to be an intruder inside the bathroom and, feeling vulnerable because he did not have his prosthetic legs on, fired into the bathroom door.

But prosecutor Gerrie Nel said that Pistorius took the time to put on his prostheses, walked seven yards from the bed to the bathroom and only then opened fire. Three of the four bullets hit Steenkamp, Nel said.

Pistorius' account said that after opening fire, he realized that Steenkamp was not in his bed. "It filled me with horror and fear," Pistorius said, and he then put on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the door before finally bashing it in with a cricket bat.

Inside, he said he found Steenkamp and tried to carry her downstairs to seek medical help. "She died in my arms," the athlete said.

Nel charged Pistorius with premeditated murder and said the athlete opened fire after the couple engaged in a shouting match and she fled to the bathroom. "She couldn't go anywhere," Nel said. "It must have been horrific."

Nel said Pistorius' story doesn't hold up. "Why would a burglar lock himself into a toilet?" the prosecutor asked in an affidavit. And if Pistorius really believed it was a burglar, he still decided to "kill the 'burglar' " at a time when "the burglar was harmless and contained in a toilet," Nel said. "This in itself also constitutes premeditated murder."

The Valentine's Day shooting in Pistorius' home in Pretoria shocked fans who idolized him for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian.

Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday, two days after her death.

Her body was being cremated yesterday at a memorial service in the port city of Port Elizabeth. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

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