PRETORIA, South Africa – Oscar Pistorius arrived at the court building in a police car with a blue blanket covering his head Wednesday as prosecutors prepared to detail why they are charging him with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.
Prosecutors want to show why he should be denied bail. Pistorius denies the charge, and said it was an accidental shooting.
The double-amputee Olympian, his brother, father and uncle were inside the court room as proceedings for the bail hearing began. The room was packed for a second day.
The 26-year-old Pistorius sat in the back of the car, which was in a convoy of three police vehicles that entered the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court through a side entrance ahead of the second day of his bail hearing.
Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder for the Feb. 14 shooting death of model Reeva Steenkamp at his upscale home in the eastern suburbs of the South African capital, Pretoria.
Pistorius said in an affidavit read out by his senior defense lawyer Tuesday that the Valentine’s Day killing of Steenkamp was accidental and that he shot her by mistake in fear of an intruder in his house. He said he kept a 9 mm pistol under his bed and was worried about violent home robberies and had also received death threats. South Africa’s society is distressed by high levels of violent crime.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court on the first day of the hearing that he would elaborate on the state’s version that the 29-year-old Steenkamp and the world’s most famous Paralympic athlete had a fight the night of her death and that she fled to the toilet before Pistorius shot four times into the locked door of the toilet enclosed in his bathroom, hitting her three times and killing her.
Since Pistorius has been charged with premeditated murder, the magistrate said his defense must offer “exceptional” reasons for him to be freed on bail.
“She locked that door for a purpose. We’ll get to that purpose,” prosecutor Nel told the packed courtroom, which had a capacity of 60 but was crammed with around 100 people Tuesday.
Pistorius again arrived before 7 a.m. local time Wednesday, via a different entrance to the courthouse than was used before his first appearance at his bail hearing. Television cameras huddled to get a shot of the Olympic runner in the back seat of the white-and-blue police car.
Reporters lined up hours before the hearing to get seats in the courtroom and police planned to shut down some roads around the busy court building.
People walking by carried newspapers with bold headlines about Pistorius’ court affidavit, which was the first time he had publicly explained his version of the events that unfolded in the early hours of last Thursday morning at his villa in a gated community.
Steenkamp’s shooting death and Pistorius’ arrest and murder charge stunned South Africa, where he is a national hero. It also sent shock waves across the world, which knows Pistorius as a disabled sports icon known as the Blade Runner and an inspiring story of someone who overcame adversity and the amputation of his lower legs as a baby to become an Olympic athlete.
In the 11-page court affidavit, the Paralympic champion said he did not have his prosthetic legs on and felt “extremely vulnerable” in the predawn hours of Feb. 14 when he thought that Steenkamp was an intruder in a toilet cubicle inside his bathroom. He said he was on his stumps when he fired into the door and then realized his tragic error when he backed away to his “pitch dark” bedroom and realized the model and law graduate, whom he had been dating for a few months, was not in bed.
The state alleges the shooting was premeditated and that Pistorius took time to put on his prosthetic legs and walk 20 feet to the toilet before opening fire.
Forensic reports may be able to establish the truth by studying the angle and height of the bullet holes in the toilet door.