An emotional Oscar Pistorius apologized Monday to the family of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed on Valentine's Day last year, saying he woke up thinking of them and praying for them every day.
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA (CNN) - An emotional Oscar Pistorius apologized Monday to the family of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed on Valentine's Day last year, saying he woke up thinking of them and praying for them every day.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologize -- to Mr. and Mrs. Steenkamp, to Reeva's family -- to those who are here today who knew her," Pistorius said as he took the stand for the first time at his murder trial.
"I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I have caused you and your family. ... I can promise you that when she went to bed that night, she felt loved," he said, his voice breaking as if he was fighting back tears.
It was the first time he has spoken in public about Steenkamp's death, which he says was an accident. He pleaded not guilty to murder when the high-profile trial opened last month.
Steenkamp's mother, June, sat stony-faced in court as South Africa's onetime Olympic golden boy choked out his statement.
Judge Thokozile Masipa also betrayed no emotion as Pistorius spoke but did once ask him to talk louder, saying she could hardly hear him.
Monday was the first day of the defense phase of the trial, following three weeks of prosecution in March.
Pistorius, who says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder in his house in the dark, testified that he has been suffering nightmares since the killing and wakes up smelling blood.
He told the Pretoria court that he is afraid to sleep, and "if I hear noise, I wake up just in a complete state of terror." He said he is on medication, including an antidepressant and sleeping aids.
Earlier, the first defense witness, pathologist Jan Botha, talked about the wounds Steenkamp suffered when Pistorius shot her and about when she last ate.
The South African amputee sprinter put his head in his hands as Botha said that the shot that hit Steenkamp's arm was "akin to a traumatic amputation" and that she died "fairly quickly after sustaining the head wound."
Botha went first because of "family health reasons," Roux said, breaking with the South African legal custom of the defendant testifying first. He said Botha was the only defense witness who will go "out of order."