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Friday 19 September 2014

Pistorius home sold for legal bills

Published 20/03/2014 | 14:57

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Oscar Pistorius is on trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp (AP)

Oscar Pistorius is selling the house where he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to raise money for his legal bills, his lawyer has said.

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Lawyer Brian Webber said in a statement that it had "become necessary" for the double-amputee runner to sell the villa in a gated community in Pretoria because his ongoing murder trial will go beyond the expected three-week duration.

Pistorius has never returned to the house since he fatally shot Ms Steenkamp in an upstairs bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of February 14 last year, Mr Webber said.

He added Pistorius "cannot contemplate ever returning to live there again" and that the house has remained "sealed" since it was handed back by police over a year ago.

Pistorius is on trial at the high court in Pretoria charged with premeditated murder in MsSteenkamp's shooting death.

In addition to the murder charge, the athlete also faces three other firearm-related offences. He has pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Mr Webber said in a statement: "Due to the delay in finalising the trial, the decision to urgently dispose of his single biggest asset has had to be made."

Pistorius valued the house at 456,000 US dollars (£276,500) at his bail hearing last year.

Pistorius' murder trial was initially planned to run March 3 to March 20, but prosecutors are still presenting evidence and expect to continue with their case until the middle of next week.

Then, Pistorius' defence will call witnesses. The high-profile trial is expected to run into April and maybe longer.

Pistorius, 27, says he shot Steenkamp, 29, by mistake thinking she was an intruder in his home.

Pistorius is being defended by two of South Africa's best-known lawyers at his trial, Barry Roux and Kenneth Oldwadge, while his court team includes at least three other lawyers, including his family lawyer Mr Webber, as well as forensic and ballistic specialists.

Mr Webber said he issued the statement "to pre-empt speculation in the public and the media, and to state the reasons for this decision".

Pistorius' representatives say he has funded his own defence from the start.

He has been living with his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, in the eastern suburbs of the South African capital, Pretoria, since he was released on bail last February.

During his bail hearing, Pistorius outlined his assets.

He said he owned the house where he lived and where he killed his girlfriend in a posh gated community, as well as two other houses in Pretoria and an empty plot of land in Langebaan, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province.

Those other three properties had a combined valued of 300,000 US dollars (£182,000), Pistorius said. He also listed other assets and cash investments worth around 140,000 US dollars (£85,000).

Pistorius, a multiple Paralympic champion and once a poster boy for disabled sport, said he earned just over 500,000 US dollars (£303,000) a year from his running but he has not competed since 2012 and big-name sponsors like Nike and sunglasses maker Oakley cut ties with him soon after he was arrested and charged with murder for shooting Ms Steenkamp three times with his 9mm pistol.

Pistorius faces going to prison for 25 years to life if he is convicted on the murder charge. His trial was adjourned to Monday, with the prosecution saying it will wrap up its case with its final four or five witnesses.

Press Association

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