As the bail hearing for murder suspect and Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius entered its second day, new details emerged in the case against the South African known as “Blade Runner” that appear to favor the embattled sprinter.
Pistorius, a double amputee who was the first runner with an artificial leg to compete in the Olympics, admitted to shooting his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home in Pretoria in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, but claims he mistook her for a burglar. Prosecutors disagree; they have charged the runner with premeditated murder.
Among the new revelations in court on the second day of bail hearings was a witness who claimed she heard incessant screaming and yelling from Pistorius’ home followed by gunshots around the time Steenkamp was killed. But the witness account was damaged on cross-examination after it was revealed they lived quite a distance away from Pistorius’ home.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said she would be submitting a statement from a witness who was “hearing non-stop fighting” around the time of the killing, according to Barry Bateman, a reporter for Eyewitness News Pretoria who live tweeted the bail hearing.
Bateman described Pistorius “battling emotionally.” He said the Olympian sobbed as details of Steenkamp’s post-mortem exam were being read.
Investigating Officer Hilton Botha, who was in charge of the crime scene at Pistorius’ home, said the witness lived 600 meters (about .4 miles) from the Olympian’s house – which drew “gasps” from observers in the South African courtroom, Bateman reported. Pistorius’ attorney, Barry Roux, got Botha to say on cross-examination that the witness could not specify whether she heard the voices of Pistorius and Steenkamp.
Alex Thomson of Channel 4 in the UK noted the significance of the revelation in the context of previous prosecutor allegations and the defense’s reluctance to answer the accusations until hearing. He likened the strategy of Pistorius’ attorneys to Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope boxing strategy.
“So after all the ‘bloodied cricket bat’, the ‘screaming rows’, the ‘drugs’, the litany of guilt presumed before the facts are examined, we now find in court that the witness to the screaming was 600 metres away and could not identify the voices,” he wrote. We find in fact that just when the insatiable public wants a new angle is it getting one. It’s called a defense. Rope a dope?”
Botha also said that police entered the crime scene without protective boots and Roux suggested that the scene had been contaminated.
“Blade Runner” also benefitted from Botha revealing on cross-examination that police could not find any inconsistencies in Pistorius’ story.
Yet the detective also said it was “highly unlikely” that Pistorius was trying to protect himself and Steenkamp from a burglar.
Nel also announced new charges for Pistorius. In addition to premeditated murder, “Blade Runner” faces possession of unlicensed ammunition charges. His attorneys claim the ammunition belongs to his father.
Bail is yet to be determined for Pistorius, with the hearing scheduled to continue Thursday. For the time being, the South African Olympian is being held at the Brooklyn jail in Pretoria.