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Crime

Paralympic star Pistorius says he shot girlfriend 'by mistake'

Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius has denied a premeditated murder charge, saying he mistook his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, for an intruder. His comments came as Steenkamp's family held a private memorial service.

Pistorius appeared in court in South Africa's capital Pretoria for a second time on Tuesday, where he offered his first public comments since being charged with the premeditated murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend. She was found shot dead in a bathroom in his upmarket home in Pretoria on Friday.

"I had no intention to kill my girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp," Pistorius, 26, said in an affidavit read out by his defense lawyer Barry Roux. The athlete said he was "filled with a horrible fear" that an intruder had snuck into his home and was in the bathroom. He said he had not known his girlfriend was hiding there.

"I fired shots at the [bathroom] door and shouted at the toilet," he said, adding that he had purchased the gun after receiving death threats.

Video: Pistorius gives his first statement

"We were deeply in love and couldn't be more happy," the athlete said of Steenkamp. He was said to have wept uncontrollably when Roux read out the statement.

Family mourn Steenkamp

Prosecutors have charged Pistorius with premeditated murder. State prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the Pretoria Magistrate's Court that Pistorius had put on his prosthetic legs, walked seven meters and then shot Steenkamp four times through a bathroom door.

He said the athlete had killed an "innocent and unarmed woman."

His bail hearing was postponed until Wednesday.

Tuesday's court appearance came as Steenkamp's family held a private funeral for the law graduate and cover girl in her hometown, Port Elizabeth.

"There's a space missing inside all of the people that she knew that can't be filled again," her brother Adam, who had given the eulogy, told reporters after the memorial. "We'll miss her."

Historic career

Commonly known as the "blade runner," Pistorius made history in 2012 when he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games.

He went on to win gold in the 4x400-meter relay and the 400-meter individual at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. The athlete also took home gold medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games four years earlier in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter races.

Pistorius races wearing carbon fiber prosthetic blades, having had both legs amputated below the knee as a result of a congenital condition before his first birthday.

Last year he was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine.

ccp/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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