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Pistorius Argued With Girlfriend Before Shots: Prosecutor

By Andres R. Martinez and Franz Wild
February 20, 2013 2:32 PM EST 12 Comments
Oscar Pistorius, South African Paralympian, appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria, South Africa on Feb. 19, 2013.
Photographer: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images
Oscar Pistorius, South African Paralympian, appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria, South Africa on Feb. 19, 2013.

Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee track star, argued with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp before shooting her dead at his home, prosecutors said.

Pistorius, 26, lowered his face as lead police investigator Hilton Botha today contested his affidavit that he thought Steenkamp was a burglar when he fired four shots at the toilet on Feb. 14. Pistorius and Steenkamp, 29, had argued between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court, citing a witness. The call for an ambulance was made at 3:20 a.m., defense attorney Barry Roux said.

The prosecution backtracked on earlier testimony from Botha that testosterone was found at Pistorius’s home. Under cross examination by Roux, Botha said he didn’t know what the substance was and that it had to be tested. National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku said in a text message late today that it was not testosterone and he didn’t know its name.

The testimony was presented to South African magistrate Desmond Nair on a second day of a bail hearing in Pretoria before Pistorius’s trial for premeditated murder. The hearing resumes tomorrow.

Drug Tests

Botha had told the court that he found two boxes of testosterone and needles at Pistorius’s home in Pretoria. Roux said it was an herbal remedy used by many athletes.

Testosterone is a male hormone that is among the substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Studies have shown conflicting results on whether it causes aggression.

Drug tests carried out on Pistorius by the International Paralympic Committee on Aug. 25 and during the Paralympic Games on Sept. 8 were negative, a spokeswoman for the Bonn-based organization said today in a phone interview. She declined to identify herself in line with the IPC’s policy.

Pistorius, dubbed the ‘‘Blade Runner’’ because of his prosthetic running blades, faces a maximum term of life in prison if found guilty of the charge, according to Nair. The prosecution will add a charge of possession of unlicensed ammunition, Nel said, after Botha found .38 caliber ammunition in a safe at his home. The bullets belong to Pistorius’s father, Roux said.

The lights in the house were on when a witness heard gun shots, followed by screams and another two or three shots, Botha said. The witness was about 600 meters (650 yards) away and didn’t identify Pistorius and Steenkamp as those speaking. Neither of the two witnesses were identified in court.

Shots Fired

Because of the layout of the bathroom, the shots fired couldn’t have hit Steenkamp where she was sitting if he had been shooting through the toilet door as Pistorius testified, Nel said.

“If you walk in directly and fire at the door, you miss the toilet,” Nel said. Pistorius’s shots hit Steenkamp above the ear, the right elbow and the right hip, Botha said.

Pistorius said in an affidavit read out in court yesterday Steenkamp was doing yoga exercises and he was watching TV on his bed the night before the shooting.

In the early hours of the morning, Pistorius went to get a fan on his bedroom balcony and heard a noise in the bathroom. He went to get his 9 mm pistol because he thought Steenkamp was in bed and the person was an intruder who entered through an open window.

‘Grave Danger’

Walking on his stumps, he shot through the door before realizing it may have been Steenkamp, he said.

“I believed that when the intruder came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger,” Pistorius said in an affidavit. “I felt trapped as my bedroom was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.”

Pistorius said he broke through the door with a cricket bat after realizing it may have been Steenkamp, and carried her body downstairs to seek help. Police found a blood-spattered cricket bat by the sink, Botha said.

The position of the bullet holes indicates Pistorius was shooting in a downward trajectory, suggesting he had already put on his prosthetic limbs, Botha said.

While Pistorius yesterday said he had previously been the victim of crime, he had never reported any incidents, Botha said.

Pistorius’s brother and lawyer came to the house after Botha had arrived at 4.15 a.m. to get documents and a flash drive containing information of off-shore bank accounts, the policeman said.

The athlete earns 5.6 million rand ($630,000) a year, has investments of 1 million rand and property worth more than 8 million rand, according to his affidavit.

Flight Risk

The state considers Pistorius a flight risk and opposes bail, Botha said.

Pistorius, who was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated below the knee at 11 months old, won six Paralympic gold medals. He became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games in London last year and was included on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most-influential people.

A funeral service was held in the south coast city of Port Elizabeth yesterday for Steenkamp’s family and friends.

Steenkamp got a degree in law from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and was a model and television presenter, according to her publicist Sarit Tomlinson.

Murder Rate

South Africa recorded 30.9 murders per 100,000 people in the 12-month period through March 2012, down from 31.9 per 100,000, the South African Police Service said on Sept. 20. The murder rate has fallen since reaching 67.9 per 100,000 in 1995, when the police force was integrated after the end of all-white, apartheid rule. South Africa’s murder rate is more than six times that of the U.S.

Sponsors Nike Inc., the world’s largest sporting-goods company, and eyewear maker Oakley Inc. distanced themselves from the runner.

Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley, which has been associated with Pistorius since 2009 according to his website, suspended its contract with him “effective immediately,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Nike don’t have any plans for new campaigns with Pistorius, Seruscka Naidoo, a South African spokeswoman for the company, said by phone from Johannesburg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Johannesburg at amartinez28@bloomberg.net; Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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