TODAY   |  April 09, 2014

Oscar Pistorius: ‘I didn’t intend to kill Reeva’

Taking the stand in his murder trial, the athlete gave an emotional account of how his late girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp died in his arms after he shot her. NBC national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen reports.

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>>> but we begin this half-hour with more drama today at the murder trial of oscar pistorius . prosecutors are grilling the olympic sprinter during cross-examination. nbc's jeff rossen is with us now from pretoria. jeff, good morning to you.

>> reporter: hey, matt, good morning once again. day three of oscar pistorius on the stand, and this could be his toughest day yet. doing battle with the prosecutor. cross-examination, as he mentioned, now under way. and within seconds, that prosecutor was basically yelling at him to take responsibility for killing his girlfriend reeva steenkamp. pistorius told the court this morning she died in his arms.

>> oscar, would you please just look into the lens?

>> reporter: oscar pistorius can't avoid the cameras outside court, but inside -- we can only hear his sobs. his tearful testimony about the moments he shot and killed his girlfriend, reeva steenkamp, thinking she was an intruder.

>> before i knew it, i'd fired four shots at the door.

>> reporter: on the stand today, pistorius , for the first time opening up about what happened next.

>> i checked to see if she was breathing and she wasn't. i pulled her weight on to me and i sat there crying for -- for some time.

>> reporter: pistorius says he called 911.

>> i don't recall speaking to the operator but i remember him telling me that i needed to get reeva to the hospital. i picked reeva up. i don't recall carrying her some of the way, but i remember getting to the second flight of stairs. i had my fingers in her mouth to herediano try to breathe. i had my hand on her hip. i was trying to stop the bleeding.

>> reporter: but it was too late.

>> reeva had already died whilst i was holding her before the ambulance arrived, so i knew that there was nothing that they could do for her.

>> reporter: reeva's mother is sitting just feet away in court. the pain she must feel right now hearing this.

>> mr. pistorius , did you at any time intend to kill reeva?

>> i did not intend to kill reeva, my lady, or anybody else for that matter.

>> reporter: but the courtroom fireworks were just about to begin. the cross-examination begins.

>> my lady, i've made a terrible mistake.

>> you made a mistake?

>> that's correct.

>> you killed a person, that's what you did, isn't it?

>> i made a mistake.

>> you killed reeva steenkamp, that's what you did.

>> i made a mistake, my lady.

>> you're repeating it three times. what was your mistake?

>> my mistake was that i took reeva's life.

>> you killed her. you shot and killed her. won't you take responsibility for that?

>> i did, my lady.

>> then say it then. say yes. i killed -- i shot and killed reeva steenkamp.

>> i did, my lady.

>> reporter: the prosecutor then showed this sky news video to the court. pistorius on a shooting range just months before he shot reeva.

>> you know that the same happened to reeva's head. it exploded.

>> reporter: the prosecutor then showed a disturbing photo of reeva's bloody head to pistorius . we are, of course, not showing it here.

>> i have taken responsibility, but i will not look at a picture where i am tormented by what i saw and felt that night. my fingers touched her head. i remember. i don't have to look at a picture. i was there.

>> reporter: when they were showing that disturbing photo of reeva today, there was a huge gasp in the courtroom. reeva's mother looked down briefly but picked her head back up and courageously stared straight ahead. one other interesting note from here, guys. here in south africa , once a defendant is being cross-examinationed, as pistorius is right now, they are not allowed to have any contact with their legal team. not during the day, no phone calls at night, so oscar pistorius truly on his own now.

>> all right, jeff rossen in pretoria. thanks very much. cynthia