Oscar Pistorius on the Stand: 'I Was Simply Trying to Protect Reeva'

Oscar Pistorius Takes the Stand
Oscar Pistorius
Phil Magakoe/Pool/EPA/Landov

04/07/2014 AT 07:00 AM EDT

An emotional Oscar Pistorius took the stand in his own defense on Monday, and immediately issued a strong – and surprise – apology to the family of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed in his home on Valentine's Day 2013.

According to South African news reports, Pistorius told the Steenkamps in the silent courtroom, "I wake up every morning and you're the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I've caused you and your family."

He said, "I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night, she felt loved. I've tried to put my words on paper many, many times to write to you. But no words will ever suffice."

Pistorius, who discussed his mobility issues, also said he is taking anti-depressants. "I'm scared to sleep, I have terrible nightmares, I can smell blood and wake up terrified," he said.

State prosecutors charge the murder was premeditated. Pistorius insists he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

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