Olympian Charged with Girlfriend's Murder Out on Bail

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CBS Web Copy
February 22, 2013

PRETORIA, South Africa A judge has granted bail to Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee athlete who has been charged in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

In announcing his decision Friday on the fourth day of Pistorius' bail hearing, Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair said that the state had not provided enough evidence to convince him that the international athlete was a flight risk.

Pistorius is charged with one count of premeditated murder over the Feb. 14 killing of Reeva Steenkamp. He says he accidentally shot her, thinking she was a dangerous intruder inside his home, lurking in a toilet stall off his bedroom.

The magistrate set bail at 1,000,000 South African rand (approx. $112,800), Reuters reported. Pistorius was also ordered to stay away from his home and witnesses, is prohibited from drinking alcohol, and must turn in his passport and his firearms He must also report to the police station twice a week.

The prosecution vehemently opposed bail, calling the Olympian also known as the "Blade Runner" a flight risk.

Nair also said that the accused "does not show a propensity to commit violence," and that there was no evidence before him that Pistorius, if freed, would interfere in the state's witnesses.

In his nearly two-hour-long statement, in which the magistrate laid out both the defense version of events and the prosecution's, Nair also addressed the testimony of Lead investigator Hilton Botha, who was removed from the case Thursday following his bungled testimony for the prosecution. "Botha is not the state case," Nair said.

The magistrate also said that Pistorius' affidavit, in which he gave his detailed version of the events of the shooting in a sworn statement, had helped his application for bail in Pretoria Magistrate's Court. He compared it to other defendants' "flimsy" affidavits in which they merely deny the charges against them.

"That reaching out in the affidavit, the way that he did, placing it before the court," Nair said. "I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail."

Pistorius' next court appearance was set for June 4.

In a statement read after the decision, Oscar's uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said, "Although we are obviously relieved that Oscar has been granted bail, this is still a very sad time for the family of Reeva and for us. We are grateful that the Magistrate recognized the validity and strength of our application. As the family, we are convinced that Oscar's version of what happened on that terrible night will prove to be true."

For the first time some of Reeva Steenkamp's friends have come to the hearing, but her family and those closest to her have stayed away.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius' version that he shot Steenkamp accidentally improbable and argued that Pistorius did not have to have planned the killing for days in advance for it to be premediated.

"He planned it that night when she (Steenkamp) locked herself in (the toilet)," Nel said in response to a question from the magistrate on why Pistorius hadn't staged a break-in at his home to make his story look more believable. "The fact that we have only one survivor of that tragic night is difficult for the state."

Pistorius' defense lawyer, Barry Roux, brought up culpable homicide as a possible charge for the first time in the case when answering questions from the magistrate.

"He did not want to kill Reeva. He had no intent to kill Reeva," Roux said as Pistorius began weeping again, as he has done for much of his bail hearing.

Roux said it was impossible for Pistorius, as famous as he is and with his prostheses, to escape South Africa before trial.

"Let me tell you how difficult it is for this man to disappear from this world," Roux said.

Prosecutor Nel earlier countered that everyone, whether disabled or famous or otherwise different from the majority, should be treated equally under the law. Nel noted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is famous but is now holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex-related charges.

Pistorius' longtime coach, Ampie Louw, had said before proceedings began that he is considering putting his runner back in training if he is granted bail to allow him to "get his mind kind of clear."

Louw said he realizes that the Olympic athlete might not be emotionally ready to give any thought to running.

"The change is that he is heartbroken, that is all," Louw said in the courtroom, surrounded by reporters and television cameras. "For me it is tough to see that. Not to be able to reach out and sit next to him and say, 'Sorry, man, it was a terrible accident.' But I cannot do it, I must just sit here in court and that's all.

"The sooner he can start working the better." said Louw, who was the person who convinced the double amputee to take up track as a teenager a decade ago.

As the hearing got underway today, Frik and Claudia Van Wyk -- both friends of the Pistorius family -- stood with a placard showing their support for Pistorius and for the family of Reeva Steenkamp.

"This is tragic what's happened to Reeva, tragic what's happened to him, so yes we are supporting both the families," Claudia Van Wyk said tearfully.

Pistorius has been held at a police station in Pretoria since last week, but suspects who are denied bail are typically held in a prison.

Roux argued on Thursday that the evidence backs Pistorius' statement that he shot through a toilet door at his home because he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, killing her by accident.

"I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released (on bail)," Roux said in court.

Opposing bail, Nel argued that Pistorius was too willing to shoot. The prosecution says Pistorius planned to kill his 29-year-old girlfriend, a model and budding reality TV star, after an argument in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

"The reason you fire four shots is to kill," Nel said.

Louw said he might put Pistorius, who overcame the amputation of his lower legs as a baby to compete at last year's London Olympics, back on a morning and afternoon training routine if he is freed, believing it might help him to be able to run track again.

"You must give him space," the coach said.

CBS Web Copy
February 19, 2013

PRETORIA, South Africa Oscar Pistorius told a packed courtroom Tuesday that he shot his girlfriend to death by mistake, thinking she was a robber. The prosecutor called it premeditated murder.

CBS Radio's Sarah Carter reports the judge in the case said he could not rule out the premeditation charge, which lead to the double amputee's lawyer reading out an affidavit at his bail hearing. In it, Pistorius said that he felt vulnerable because he did not have on his prosthetic legs when he heard noises in the bathroom, and that was when he pumped bullets into the locked door. Then, Pistorius said in the sworn statement, he realized that model Reeva Steenkamp was not in his bed.

"It filled me with horror and fear," he said.

He put on his prosthetic legs, tried to kick down the door, then bashed it in with a cricket bat to find Steenkamp, 29, shot inside. He said he ran downstairs with her, but "She died in my arms."

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel on Tuesday charged the 26-year-old athlete and Olympian with premeditated murder, alleging he took the time to put on his legs and walk some seven yards from the bed to the bathroom door before opening fire. If convicted of the crime, correspondent Emma Hurd reports for CBS News that Pistorius could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Valentine's Day shooting death has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday, two days after her death.

The magistrate ruled that Pistorius faces the harshest bail requirements available in South African law.

Nel told the court that Pistorius fired into the door of a small bathroom where Steenkamp was cowering after a shouting match. He fired four times and three bullets hit Steenkamp, the prosecutor said.

"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," prosecutor Nel argued. "It must have been horrific."

Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer, Barry Roux, insisted the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

"Was it to kill her, or was it to get her out?" he asked about the broken-down door. "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder."

He said the state had provided no evidence that the couple quarreled nor offered a motive.

Nel rebutted: "The motive is `I want to kill."'

As details emerged at the dramatic court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp's body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth. The family said members had arrived from around the world. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

Pistorius was born without fibula bones and had them amputated when he was 11 months old.

The man known as the Blade Runner because of his running prostheses last year became the first double-amputee track athlete to run at the Olympics.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CBS Web Copy
February 17, 2013

Double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius has claimed he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp accidentally because he thought she was an intruder, but a report in a major South African newspaper casts some doubt on that scenario.

Police recovered a "bloodied cricket bat" at the 26-year-old runner's Pretoria home after the shooting, and it has turned into a central piece of evidence in the case, City Press reports.

The paper also claims Steenkamp's skull had been "crushed," and police are investigating whether the bat was the cause of that injury.

There are allegedly three scenarios police are investigating involving the bat, according to City Press: The first is that Pistorius somehow used it against Steenkamp; the second involves the possibility that Steenkamp used it to defend herself after barricading herself inside a bathroom; the final scenario is that Pistorius used it to break down the bathroom door once she had been barricaded inside.

Police have also allegedly requested a drug test from Pistorius, City Press reports.

A police spokeswoman told The Guardian newspaper she could not explain how the "bloody cricket bat" and drug test claims had emerged in South African newspapers, but did not deny them.

"We are not commenting on anything in the newspapers today as the case is still before the court," she said on Sunday. "They are insinuating they got the information from the police."

Meanwhile, Pistorius' agent told the Associated Press that the double-amputee Olympian has received "overwhelming support" from his fans as he remains in custody in a South African police station.

Peet van Zyl said Sunday outside the Brooklyn police station that "international fans from literally all over the world" have sent their good wishes to Pistorius.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CBS Web Copy
February 15, 2013

PRETORIA, South Africa Olympic superstar Oscar Pistorius wept in court Friday as prosecutors said they'll pursue a charge of premeditated murder against him for killing his model girlfriend, meaning the man who once inspired the world could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Pistorius was formally charged at Pretoria Magistrates Court with one count of murder for the slaying of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show contestant. The 30-year-old was shot multiple times and died at Pistorius' upmarket home early Thursday morning.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Friday in court it was premeditated murder, indicating the prosecution would file that more serious charge, upgraded from murder.

The double-amputee athlete's arrest and murder charge had already left South Africa stunned after Steenkamp's death on Valentine's Day at Pistorius' house in a gated community in an eastern suburb of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

Sky News' Emma Hurd, reporting for CBS News from Pretoria, said Pistorius' father tried to comfort his weeping son as the official murder charge was read, and other family members also sobbed in the public gallery. Hurd said South Africa had drafted in its top prosecutors to pursue the case, and Pistorius had hired a high-profile defense team, setting the stage for a real court room drama.

Following the hearing, Pistorius' family and his London management company issued a statement calling into question the criminal charge the 26-year-old athlete faces.

"The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms," the statement read. The statement did not elaborate.

The statement also said Pistorius wanted to "send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva."

"He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received — but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family — regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy," the statement read.

Those who knew Pistorius, including a former girlfriend, also weighed in on social media.

Trish Taylor, mother of Pistorius' ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor, wrote on Facebook: "I'm so glad Sammy is safe and out of the clutches of that man."

But another ex-girlfriend, Jenna Edkins, defended Pistorius in messages Friday on Twitter.

"All I am saying is let him speak, let his side be heard without jumping to conclusions," Edkins wrote. She offered "love and support" to the Pistorius family and wrote: "I have dated Oscar on and off for 5 YEARS, NOT ONCE has he EVER lifted a finger to me or made me fear for my life."

Prosecutors said Friday that they would argue the history-making Olympic athlete — the first amputee to run at the games — had planned Steenkamp's killing. It sent South Africans reeling further as their national hero, and a global role model in overcoming adversity, was set to face accusations that he intentionally gunned down his girlfriend.

South Africa's tabloid Citizen newspaper had the headline "Blade gunner?" Friday morning, playing on double-amputee athlete Pistorius' well-known nickname of "Blade Runner" because of his carbon fiber running blades.

Pistorius stood with his face in his hands as he broke down in tears on his first appearance at the Pretoria Magistrates' Court. Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir delayed Pistorius' bail hearing until next Tuesday and Wednesday and ruled that Pistorius would be held at a police station in Pretoria until then. Police have said they oppose the granting of bail.

A solemn Pistorius entered the court wearing a gray suit and blue tie and initially appeared composed. When he broke down in tears, his brother, Carl, reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder. Pistorius' father, Henke, was in the court and later reached over to comfort him as well.

More than 100 people packed Friday morning into Courtroom C at the Pretoria Magistrates Court, including dozens of photographers and videographers. Nasir ruled that no recordings of court proceedings would be allowed in the case.

Police said Friday investigators also conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp's body. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.

Pistorius earlier left a police station, his jacket completely covering his head as he got into a police vehicle. He was holding what appeared to be a white handkerchief in one hand. He was led by officers to a police van outside the Boschkop Police Station in eastern Pretoria, where he had been questioned on Thursday and had spent the night in custody.

A policeman was also seen carrying a handgun in a plastic forensic bag outside the Boschkop station. It was believed to be the weapon used to shoot and kill Steenkamp.

Police said the victim was shot four times at Pistorius' villa in a gated community. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home.

Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete at any games. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4X400 relay, propelling the world's best-known Paralympian to the level of an international track star and one of the world's best-known sportsmen.

But police hinted at a troubled lifestyle away from public scrutiny for the runner Thursday when they said there had previously been domestic incidents at Pistorius' home.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CBS Web Copy
February 14, 2013

(CBS) - Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius will spend Thursday night in jail after being charged with murdering his girlfriend in his home in South Africa, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The paralympic runner made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.

Pistorius was ushered from his house by police Thursday morning after 30-year-old Reeva Steenkamp was found fatally shot in his home in an upscale suburb in Pretoria.

Steenkamp was one of FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running. She appeared in countless international and national advertisements and was one of the celebrity contestants on a television show called "Tropika Island of Treasure," filmed in Jamaica, according to The Associated Press.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Denise Beukes said there were previous incidents and "allegations of a domestic nature" at Pistorius' home.

The National Prosecuting Authority said Pistorius would remain in custody until his hearing Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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