Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Oscar Pistorius bail hearing: This was never ever premeditated murder, says defence team

Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead at Oscar Pistorius's home in Pretoria (Stimulii/AP)
Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead at Oscar Pistorius's home in Pretoria (Stimulii/AP)
Reeva Steenkamp's casket arrives ahead of her funeral ceremony in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (AP)
Oscar Pistorius stands following his bail hearing in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)

The team defending Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius in the trial over his girlfriend's death has vigorously rejected claims that the athlete pre-planned her murder.

Speaking at a bail hearing in Pretoria, this is the first time that the athlete's defence team has put forward their case since he was arrested following the shooting at his home in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

It is the athlete's second court appearance after being charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp last Thursday.

The defence says the shooting of Ms Steenkamp was "never ever" premeditated murder, and that there is no basis for the inference that Pistorius knew it was her behind the bathroom door, through which Pistorius is alleged to have shot her three times.

Countering the prosecutors' charge of premeditated murder, the defence says that with the state's argument all murders would be pre-planned, according to The Independent's Africa correspondent Daniel Howden, who is inside the courtroom.

Sitting suited, with head bowed, Pistorius is watched on by his father, brother and sister on the front row.

Earlier he arrived by car at Pretoria Magistrate's Court amid a media frenzy as around 200 journalists scrambled for only 26 places inside.

The 26-year-old is expected to apply for bail, in a hearing that could reveal more details about the death of Ms Steenkamp and could reportedly last for up to two days.

Howden managed to secure himself a spot and is tweeting from Court C.

He tweeted: "Prosecution opposes bail says pistorius hasnt furnished any defence. Says 4 shots, 3 through a door in premeditated murder of #reevasteenkamp

"Prosecution: he armed himself walked 7m to toilet cubicle & shot her. Premeditation doesnt require a month of planning"

The prosecution also claimed that Ms Steenkamp's overnight bag was found in the bedroom.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the killing was premeditated because Pistorius had planned to say that he thought he was shooting an intruder. "It was all part of the preplanning. Why would a burglar lock himself inside the bathroom?" Nel said.

The court was told that Ms Steenkamp's post mortem will be partially disclosed at the hearing and that some physical evidence must be presented to convince the magistrate of the premeditated murder charge being sought by the prosecution.

Lawyers for South African newspapers defended allegations of contempt of court over the publishing of photographs of the athlete crying during Friday's hearing after the magistrate banned the taking of pictures in the court today. He requests that the media respect the restrictions.

Pistorius was remanded to a Pretoria police station after his first appearance in court on Friday, when prosecutors said they intended to pursue a case of premeditated murder against the South African athlete, which means he could face a life sentence.

He was arrested after his model girlfriend was shot at his Pretoria home on Thursday.

The court appearance comes on the same day as her funeral, expected to be a private service, after her body was returned to her home town of Port Elizabeth.

Her mother June has described her "horrendous" torment at her daughter's death.

Mrs Steenkamp told South African newspaper The Times: "She loved like no one else could love.

"She had so much of herself to give and now all of it is gone. Just like that, she is gone. In the blink of an eye and a single breath, the most beautiful person who ever lived is no longer here.

"All we have is this horrendous death to deal with ... to get to grips with. All we want are answers ... answers as to why this had to happen, why our beautiful daughter had to die like this."

South African newspaper City Press reported that a cricket bat covered in blood had been recovered from Pistorius's property.

His arrest triggered shock across the globe and prompted rumours that he might have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder in what could have been a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong.

But police swiftly distanced themselves from that suggestion and said there had been previous incidents of a "domestic nature" at Pistorius's house.

His family has vowed to fight the murder charge in the "strongest terms".

Pistorius's best friend claimed the sports star called him minutes after the shooting telling him "there has been a terrible accident", according to the Sunday People.

Justin Divaris said: "It's all very sad. Oscar called me at 3.55am saying that Reeva had been shot.

"It was very traumatic. By the time we got there it was already a crime scene and we weren't allowed in the house."

Pistorius's father said he had "zero doubt" that Steenkamp's death was a tragic accident and that his son may have acted "on instinct".

Henke Pistorius said he believed the model was killed after being mistaken for an intruder at his son's house.

He said: "When you are a sportsman, you act even more on instinct. It's instinct - things happen and that's what you do."

Steenkamp's father Barry paid tribute to her in a newspaper interview.

He told the Mail on Sunday the family was struggling to come to terms with the death, but said: "There is no hatred in our hearts. He must be going through things that we don't know about.

"We ask the Lord every day to help us find a reason why this should happen to Reeva.

"She was the most beautiful, kind girl in the world."

Pistorius's management company has issued a statement announcing it had "no option" but to cancel all future races the double amputee was contracted to compete in.

Managing agent Peet Van Zyl said the athlete's "key focus is defending himself against this serious charge".

Pistorius, who won two gold medals and a silver at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, was contracted to compete in the Manchester City Games on May 25, following Qantas Tour races in Australia on March 9 and 16 and meetings in Rio de Janeiro (March 31) and Iowa (April 26).

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz