20 Feb 2013

Pistorius in court for second day of bail hearing

8:42 pm on 20 February 2013

A bail hearing for the South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius is continuing in Pretoria on Wednesday.

The double-amputee athlete has denied murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead at his home on the outskirts of the city early on 14 February.

On Tuesday, the judge ruled that the case will be heard as one of premeditated murder.

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete wept and put his head in his hands as he heard the ruling, expected to make it much harder for him to secure bail.

Prosecutors on Wednesday are set to detail their case against the 26-year-old and expected to highlight reports that neighbours had heard loud arguments at his luxury home before he shot Ms Steenkamp, the BBC reports.

The defence will have to prove the extenuating circumstances that would justify granting bail.

A full trial of the Paralympic star is not expected for months.

On Tuesday, Mr Pistorius told the court that he shot the 29-year-old through a bathroom door after mistaking her for an intruder. He said he loved his girlfriend and never intended to kill her.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Pistorius said he woke in the middle of the night and thought he heard an intruder in his bathroom.

In pitch darkness, he said he took a pistol from beneath his bed. After screaming for the intruder to leave, he said he fired four shots through the door.

Only after shooting did he realise Ms Steenkamp was not still in his bed, the statement said. He broke down the bathroom door and discovered her body.

"She died in my arms. I am absolutely mortified at the death of my beloved Reeva," the statement said.

Oscar Pistorius wept as his affidavit was read out. But his account was disputed by the prosecution, who said the couple may have argued before the shooting.

"There is no possible explanation to support his report that he thought it was a burglar," prosecutors said. "It was all part of the pre-planning. Why would a burglar lock himself inside the bathroom?" prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court.

Funeral held

The first day of the bail hearing coincided with Reeva Steenkamp's funeral. The model and law graduate was cremated in her home town of Port Elizabeth.

Her father, Barry Steenkamp, told reporters: "We have to keep Reeva in our hearts forever."

The case has aroused huge interest both in South Africa, where Oscar Pistorius is regarded as a national hero.

He is a multiple Paralympic champion, winning gold medals at the 2004 Games in Athens, at Beijing 2008 and at London 2012.

In London he made history by becoming the first double amputee to run in the Olympics, progressing to the semi-finals of the 400m.