February 21, 2013
By Anita Powell
Lawyers have concluded their arguments in the bail hearing of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The prosecution says Pistorius, a double amputee athlete, committed pre-meditated murder, while the defense maintains he thought he was shooting a burglar.
The day in court ended with a question from Magistrate Desmond Nair: Will Oscar Pistorius flee if he grants him bail ahead of his murder trial?
Nair will have to decide that in coming days, as he prepares to rule on the athlete’s bail application.
It was a day of back and forth arguments from the prosecution and defense.
The prosecution first called up Hilton Botha, an experienced police investigator who was on the scene shortly after the February 14 shooting at Pistorius’ Pretoria home.
Botha said police found model Reeva Steenkamp dead at the scene and fully clothed. Botha noted that Pistorius fired four shots through the closed door to the bathroom, but that the toilet does not line up with the door.
Botha also said that police found a stock of unlicensed ammunition at the runner’s home and four mobile phones — none of which had been used to call police or an ambulance, as Pistorius said he had.
Botha also said a witness told police that she heard loud talking from the house for an hour before the 3 a.m. shooting, indicating that Pistorius may have argued with Steenkamp before the shooting.
He noted two prior violent incidents involving Pistorius: he said the Olympic athlete accidentally fired a weapon in January at a popular Johannesburg restaurant and talked a friend into taking the blame. He also threatened to hurt two different men.
Botha also said police found “testosterone, needles and injections” in Pistorius’ bedroom.
Botha concluded: “I believe that he knew she was in the bathroom, and that he fired four shots through the door, and killed her.”
Defense Attorney Barry Roux then questioned Botha’s account of the fatal shooting. Roux says that Pistorius mistook his girlfriend of three months for a burglar who had gotten into the bathroom and shot her dead through the closed bathroom door.
Roux questioned the policework — noting that Botha failed to wear protective shoes at the scene, and that he missed one phone that Pistorius had used to call police. He also accused Botha of entering the house with a preconceived idea of what Pistorius had done.
Concerning the testosterone claim, Roux said the substance was a herbal remedy used by many athletes, and not a banned substance.
Botha, under questioning, said that Pistorius’ account of the shooting was not inconsistent with evidence police found at the scene.
The investigator maintained that he suspected Pistorius would flee — perhaps to Italy, where he has known ties — if granted bail.
One of Pistorius’ friends, magnate Kenny Kunene, was in court for both days of the bail hearing.
“I’m hoping for bail,” said Kunene. “He gave his side of the story yesterday. And all those prophets of doom, who have reduced him to being guilty before they could even know about his version, we will wait and see how the case ends up. Obviously, it’s keep up there and we’ll keep praying, and we’ll let him keep praying, I will remain loving him, and I will remain a friend, and if he calls upon me to help him, I will do so.”
After two days of arguments, Magistrate Nair will now rule on the bail request.
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