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Olympic Runner Oscar Pistorius Begins Bail Hearing for Girlfriend’s Murder Trial

February 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: We return now to South Africa, where double amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius appeared in court today, and the family of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp gathered for her funeral.

We have this report narrated by Keme Nzerem of Independent Television News.

KEME NZEREM: His father, and as he listened to the charges against him that he shot his girlfriend dead in an act of premeditated murder, he sobbed.

Exactly what happened in his high-security gated home late on the night of St. Valentine last week? Did Oscar Pistorius kill his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp? Yes, his lawyer would concede. But he argued it was mistake. The explanation came by way of a prepared statement read to the court by his lawyer.

Pistorius claims the couple were deeply in love and went to sleep shortly after 10:00. He woke later to retrieve a fan from the balcony and heard what he thought was an intruder in the bathroom. The world’s most famous disabled athlete walking around in the dead of night only on his stumps, it made him, he said, feel vulnerable. Allegedly, he had this gun by his bed.

In the dark, he picked it up and then this: “I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on, I have mobility on my stumps. I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to call the police.”

Only then, claims Pistorius, did it dawn on him that Reeva was no longer next to him in bed and the noise that had spooked him from the bathroom was her. He says he then put on his prosthetic legs, bashed down the door with a cricket bat to find her breathing her last.

“Reeva was slumped over, but alive. She died in my arms. I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva.”

Reeva Steenkamp, cremated this afternoon in a ceremony open only to close family and friends. It was desperately sad.

MAN: But we are here today as a family? (INAUDIBLE) Reeva.

MAN: It’s OK.

MAN: We have got to get (INAUDIBLE)

KEME NZEREM: How on Earth to put into words the loss of a daughter, a niece, or a sister?

And the prosecution team boiling the case down to this. The couple, they claim, had an argument. For some reason Pistorius put on his legs, walked to the bathroom and shot through the door. Whether he thought it was actually his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, or indeed a burglar.

GERRIE NEL, Prosecutor: If I arm myself, walk a distance and murder a person, that is premeditated. The door is closed. There is no doubt. I walk seven meters and I kill. The motive is, I want to kill. That’s it.

KEME NZEREM: The next stage of his bail hearing is tomorrow, but Pistorius was returned to the cells tonight knowing he may never taste freedom again.