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Africa

Pistorius sobs as grisly shooting details emerge

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-19

Double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius broke down in court on Tuesday as prosecutors ran through the grisly details of his girlfriend’s death on Valentine’s Day. His defence lawyer said the shooting at his home was “accidental”.

Grizzly details emerged of the fatal shooting of model Reeva Steenkamp in a Pretoria court on Tuesday as South African Olympic champion Oscar Pistorius sought bail after being accused of shooting his model girlfriend at his gated luxury home. The state has said it would oppose bail.

As details emerged at the dramatic court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp’s body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the southern city of Port Elizabeth.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the magistrate's court in Pretoria that Pistorius had to put on his prosthetic limbs, arm himself and walk seven metres before firing four handgun rounds into the locked bathroom door, saying this showed premeditation on the part of the star athlete.

“She was in a little room. She could go nowhere. It must have been horrific,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.

An accident?

Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer insisted that the shooting was an accident. “All we really know is she locked herself behind the toilet door and she was shot,” defence lawyer Barry Roux told the packed courtroom. “We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder,” Roux said.

In an affidavit read out by Roux, Pistorius said he had been “deeply in love” with Steenkamp and was “mortified” by her death.

He and Steenkamp went to sleep on Wednesday night shortly after 10pm, he said. However, in the middle of the night in pitch darkness, he awoke and thought an intruder had climbed through the window of his bathroom. Having had previous death threats, Pistorius said he slept with a 9mm pistol under his bed.

He climbed out of bed without putting on his prosthetic legs and went towards the closed bathroom door, not realising Steenkamp was behind it, he said. He then fired several shots into the door, before shouting to Steenkamp to call the police.

Realising she was not in bed, he grabbed a cricket bat to beat down the bathroom door, and found his girlfriend slumped on the floor.

‘No previous charges’

In arguing that Pistorius should be freed on bail, Roux said there were no other charges outstanding against the sporting hero who last year became the first double-amputee track athlete to run at the Olympics.

Pistorius' family has insisted that the evidence will refute “any possibility of a premeditated murder or indeed any murder at all”.

Pistorius, making his second court appearance over the killing, sobbed and mumbled throughout the hearing, reporters said. BBC correspondent Andrew Harding tweeted from the courtroom: “[Pistorius] silently mouths some words in anguish as magistrate mentions possibility of life imprisonment.”

'We were deeply in love.'

The 26-year-old defendant has built up a powerful team of lawyers, medical specialists and public relations experts for his defence, including former newspaper editor of UK tabloid The Sun, Stuart Higgins.

Steenkamp laid to rest

Meanwhile in the southern city of Port Elizabeth, the body of Steenkamp arrived at a private funeral ceremony by black hearse. Steenkamp's cloth-draped coffin bearing white flowers was carried into the chapel by six people.

In an interview published on Monday, Steenkamp's mother described the 29-year-old's death as “horrendous”.

“Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?” June Steenkamp said to The Times of South Africa. “She had so much of herself to give and now all that is gone. Just like that, she is gone...”

Her father, Michael Steenkamp, told AFP the family bore no grudge against Pistorious, but wanted clarity about the death.

Sharon Steenkamp, her cousin, told local newspaper The Herald that none of the family had met Pistorius. “No, we are not even thinking about Oscar. All our focus is on Reeva, her life and what has happened to her,” she said.

Troubled history

The Sun newspaper reported Monday that police found illegal steroids, a bloody cricket bat and evidence of heavy alcohol consumption at Pistorius’ home. Police have not confirmed the reports.

An officer at the crime scene on Thursday told reporters that police had been called to the address previously because of incidents of a “domestic nature”.

In 2009, Pistorius was arrested after slamming a door on a woman and spent the night in police custody on assault charges. Family and friends said it was an accident and the charges were dropped.

Known as “Blade Runner”, Pistorius famously reached the 400m semi-finals at the London 2012 Olympics. At the Paralympics he won silver in the T44 200m, gold in the 4x100 relay and gold in the T44 400m. In 2008 he won a legal battle for the right to compete in able-bodied competitions. The runner had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old after being born without lower leg bones.

US companies Nike and Oakley said Tuesday they had decided to cut ties to the South African Olympic runner.

Steenkamp was a model, television star and law graduate who had been dating Pistorius for around three months. One of her last Twitter postings indicated that she was looking forward to Valentine's Day. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted on February 13, followed by “It should be a day of love for everyone :) may it be blessed!”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-02-19

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