Sunday 18 February 2018

Oscar Pistorius 'heartbroken' by death of girlfriend, says coach

Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)
Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)

Ellen Branagh

OSCAR Pistorius is "heartbroken" by the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, his coach said today, as the Paralympian began the fourth day of his fight for bail.

"Blade Runner" Pistorius, 26, is accused of murdering 29-year-old model Steenkamp at his home last week but claims he shot her through a bathroom door thinking she was an intruder.

Speaking outside Pretoria Magistrates' Court, his coach Ampie Louw said the athlete was heartbroken by his girlfriend's death, telling reporters: "For me, it's tough to see that. You cannot reach out, sit next to him and say sorry man, this is a terrible accident..."

He said if Pistorius was granted bail, his training would resume, although he will not compete. Yesterday sports giant Nike confirmed it has suspended its contract with the runner.

"I think that will be a very good thing to do, I think just to get his mind clear. The sooner he can start with a bit of work, the better."

He said it was unlikely the sports star would flee, if given bail, adding: "He is not going to run nowhere so why not give the guy bail? He must stand trial, and let's do that and get the truth out of it."

The prosecution continued to sum up its case in the lengthy bail hearing today, after Pistorius's defence argued yesterday he was too famous to flee if released on bail.

The case saw another twist yesterday as the lead investigator was replaced after he was charged with seven counts of attempted murder in a case that had previously been dropped.

Hilton Botha is due to appear in court with two other police officers in May, accused of firing shots at a minibus which had seven people inside in October 2011.

Summing up for Pistorius yesterday, defence advocate Barry Roux said poor-quality evidence by Mr Botha had exposed disastrous shortcomings in the state's case.

He said he had been selective with what he said and determined to "bolster the state's case", but could not refute Pistorius's version of what happened, which suggested he was desperate to save her life.

He said there would be widespread shock if the star was not released on bail.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked yesterday if the Paralympian thought that being a world-renowned athlete was an argument for exceptional circumstances and said Pistorius wanted to continue with his life "as if this incident never happened".

He said the athlete's "total lack of insight and willingness to take responsibility for his deeds" increased his risk of fleeing.

He claimed Pistorius's actions that night were indicative of a man ready and willing to fire to kill.

"He fired four shots, not one shot," he said. "The only reason you fire four shots is to kill. On his own version, he's bound to be convicted."

As the prosecutor continuing summing up today, Pistorius stood with his head bowed, often visibly emotional in court.

Mr Nel said the athlete appeared to be treating the situation as "business as usual".

He said Pistorius's claim that he thought there was an intruder in the house was part of his planning, and although Steenkamp's murder might not have been planned days in advance, it was planned that night.

The prosecutor said the model locked herself in the bathroom either to escape an argument or to escape the gun.

He said a previous incident where Pistorius is said to have fired a gun in a restaurant, then got a friend to take the blame, suggested he was conscious of protecting himself, and said the athlete was a flight risk if granted bail.

"Lots of important people have fled, are still fleeing justice. Lots of people have escaped bail," he said.

"Who should tell the court what happened? The applicant, not the state. We say the court should refuse bail."

He said Pistorius's version of events was "improbable", while the state's version was based on "objective facts".

The prosecutor said Pistorius had the "money, means and motive" to flee if given bail, and described how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was just as well known but had avoided bail by seeking refuge in London's Ecuadorian Embassy.

But defence lawyer Barry Roux said it would be difficult for Pistorius to flee as he would struggle with his prosthetic legs, which cannot go unnoticed through airport security, need maintenance and adjustment on a monthly basis, and his own legs need regular medical treatment.

Magistrate Desmond Nair is now expected to make his decision after midday Irish time.


Press Association

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