As the girlfriend he shot lay dead or dying in his home, a weeping, praying Oscar Pistorius knelt at her side and struggled in vain to help her breathe by holding two fingers in her clenched mouth, a witness testified yesterday at the double-amputee runner's murder trial.
"I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her," radiologist Johan Stipp recalled Pistorius saying in the minutes after the fatal shooting for which the athlete is on trial for murder.
A few minutes later, Stipp said, Pistorius went upstairs - the area where he had shot Reeva Steenkamp - and then returned. At that point, Stipp said he was concerned that the gun used in the shooting had not been recovered and that a distraught Pistorius was going to harm himself.
The testimony in a Pretoria court was the first detailed, public description of the immediate aftermath of the shooting of the 29-year-old model by the Olympian in the pre-dawn hours of February 14 - Valentine's Day - last year.
At his bail hearing last year, Pistorius said in a statement read by lawyer Barry Roux that, after he realised he had shot Steenkamp, he pulled on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the toilet door before finally giving up and bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over but still alive. He said he lifted her bloodied body and carried her downstairs to seek medical help.
"It was obvious that she was mortally wounded," Stipp said as he described what he saw at Pistorius' villa. "At the bottom of the stairs ... there was a lady lying on her back on the floor." As a radiologist, Stipp is a medical doctor with years of study, and he said he used his expertise to try to save the shot woman.
"I tried to assist her." Stipp said. "I tried to open an airway."
Sitting on a courtroom bench, Pistorius bent forward and put his hand over his face, then moved them to cover both ears.
Pistorius is charged with murder after shooting Steenkamp three times out of four shots through a toilet door in his home. Prosecutors said the athlete intentionally killed Steenkamp after an argument, but Pistorius says it was a mistake because he thought she was an intruder.
"Oscar was crying all the time," he said. "He was praying to God, 'Please let her live.'"