Oscar Pistorius trial: Paddy Power defends 'sick' betting advert, describing murder case as 'like OJ Simpson on steroids'
Campaigners say the Irish bookies are trivialising violence against women
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has said it has "no intention" of taking down an advert dubbed sick and offensive for offering money back to punters if sprint champion Oscar Pistorius "walks" away from killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The controversial ad features a photograph of Pistorius, a double amputee Olympic racer and a Paralympic gold medallist, mocked up as an Academy Award statuette.
The bookies states: "It's Oscar Time. Money Back If He Walks. We will refund all losing bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial if he is found not guilty."
The ad has sparked fury on the opening day of Oscar Pistorius's murder trial. Growing protests have branded it as "sick" and produced calls for any money raised so far to be donated to groups which tackle violence against women.
But the bookies' spokesman has defended the advert, describing the trial as "like OJ Simpson on steroids".
It coincides with the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles and the first day of Pistorius' trial in South Africa where he formally pleaded not guilty to four charges including the murder of Miss Steenkamp.
Prosecutors allege Pistorius, 27, shot his model and reality TV star girlfriend through the bathroom door at his home on Valentines' Day in 2013. Pistorius claims he mistook her for an intruder.
By 1.50pm today 1,190 people, and counting, had signed a change.org online petition demanding that Paddy Power "please remove your offensive betting on the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial and donate any profits so far to a women's charity fighting violence against women".
Holly Dustin, director of End Violence Against Women said: "They are making a game out of murder and the brutal killing of a young woman which is unacceptable.
"It is not just that this is a bit sick - it also actually contributes to a culture in which violence against women is trivialised or made into a bit of a joke.
"This a really serious problem. It is recognised as a human rights issue both here in the UK and in South Africa. It is totally unacceptable. They should withdraw the ad."
Paddy Power's marketing spokesman, whose name is also Paddy Power, said the firm have "no intention at the moment" of taking the advert down.
He said: "It is so high profile which means there is more talk about it and it is being talked about in every pub. People are talking about this . It is top of the agenda. It is in everyone's face. Everyone is interested and intrigued.
"We are not offering on it not because it is a murder trial, we are offering odds because it is a huge global event which just happens to be a murder trial."
Mr Power said: "There has been less than 1,000 bets placed on this and the stakes are very small. The bet is to reflect the public's view of where the case is going to go.
"This is just a high profile media event and a chance for people to put their money where their mouth is."
He said he was surprised that a link with domestic violence has been made, saying: "What we are offering is a bet on a high profile court case." He added: "It is like OJ Simpson on steroids. It is the highest profile one I can remember. People are are talking about it and that is why we are offering odds on it."
Protesters from across the globe who have signed the petition condemned the bet as "reprehensible" and "shameless behaviour". Others declared that Paddy Power had gone "Too far this time, too far" and that the "death of a woman should not be used as a publicity stunt. A new disgusting low for the UK."
The petition is addressed to Paddy Power's chief executive Patrick Kennedy.
It states: "Please consider the vast surge of public outrage against the terrible decision you have taken to offer bets upon the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial.
"[Reeva Steenkamp's] death is not and should never be a source of entertainment or profit. I have seen your attempt to explain the decision and it is unacceptable. 138 women died in the UK last year as a result of male violence against women.
"This is not something that should be seen as "sport". In order to salvage the situation it would be an act of reparation and humanity to donate any profits to relevant women's charities working in the area of Domestic Violence and Abuse."