22 February 2013

South Africa: Pistorius Gets Bail Amid Questions

Photo: Werner Beukes/Sapa
Paralympian Oscar Pistorius enters the dock at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court.

Pretoria — Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was granted bail of R1 million on Friday, but sharp questions were asked about his version of events the night his girlfriend was killed.

The Pretoria Magistrate's Court agreed he could pay R100,000 first and the rest of the bail amount by March 1.

Pistorius has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home on February 14.

Giving his lengthy ruling, Magistrate Desmond Nair said he had problems with Pistorius' version of the shooting in his Pretoria home that left Steenkamp dead.

"I have difficulty in appreciating why the accused did not ascertain the whereabouts of his girlfriend when he got out of the bed," said Nair.

Other "problems" Nair had with Pistorius' version of how Steenkamp was shot through a bathroom door after he thought an intruder was in the house, included why he did not check who was in the toilet.

Also, why the deceased and Pistorius could not escape through a bedroom door rather than venture into the toilet, and why he would further venture into danger in the toilet.

"To my mind what if he came out and the intruder was waiting for him?" asked Nair.

And, why did Pistorius sleep on the other side of the bed that night.

Nair stuck to his decision to treat the charge against Pistorius as a schedule six offence, but made it clear it was not up to him to find him guilty or not.

"I am not here at this point in time to find the accused guilty of pre-meditated murder."

This was for a trial judge to decide, he said.

He explained the checklists that courts had to consider when granting bail, as Pistorius waited to hear whether he would be going home or not.

"The issue is not guilt, but where the interests of justice lie in relation to bail," said Nair.

Pistorius and his family, including brother Carl and sister Aimee, looked upset as Nair summed up the reams of evidence that had been submitted to him.

The athlete has spent four days listening to allegations and evidence that the State believes will prove he murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a shooting at his home.

Including a lesson on the history of bail, Nair said an applicant could apply later to have evidence led in the bail application excluded from a trial.

He said bail reduced overcrowding in jail.

Nair said the State failed to prove Pistorius was a flight risk.

"I cannot find that it has been established that the accused is a flight risk."

Nair said former investigating officer Warrant Officer Hilton Botha did not spend enough time showing that Pistorius had a propensity to commit violence.

He brought reports of alleged vulgar language and threats and a gun discharged under a table, but did not provide details.

Under Pistorius' bail conditions, he would not return to his home at Silver Woods estate in Pretoria, where the shooting occurred.

He would stay at an address that would not be publicly disclosed.

He would hand in all his passports and not apply for any passport or travel documents, and stay away from airports.

Her would report to the Brooklyn police station between 7am and 1pm from Monday to Friday.

He would refrain from being in possession of any firearm and hand in all his firearms.

The matter was postponed to June 4.

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