Pistorius eyes bail as hearing enters final stretch

2013-02-22 10:11

Star athlete Oscar Pistorius, charged with murder after shooting dead his girlfriend, arrived in court this morning hoping to secure bail after three days of hearings saw the prosecution’s case seriously undermined.

Prosecutors accuse the star sprinter of premeditated murder over the Valentine’s Day killing of his model and law graduate girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his upscale home.

Pistorius denies the charge, saying he shot 29-year-old Steenkamp repeatedly through a locked bathroom door in the dead of night by accident, having mistaken her for a burglar.

Today, the prosecution is expected to wrap up its closing arguments and Magistrate Desmond Nair will then have to decide whether to make a decision on bail or delay his finding until after the weekend.

The prosecution has seen its evidence repeatedly picked apart during the week’s proceedings, giving what observers say is a good chance for Pistorius to be released on bail as he awaits trial for the killing.

In a stunning development yesterday, police commissioner Riah Phiyega unceremoniously ditched the lead detective on the case, Hilton Botha, after he bumbled through testimony and it emerged he himself was facing seven attempted murder charges for having opened fire on a minibus in 2011.

“We recognise the significance, the importance and the severity of the matter,” Phiyega said, naming the country’s top detective, Lieutenant General Vineshkumar Moonoo, to the case.

Lawyers following the case say the state has failed to present a strong enough case to keep Pistorius behind bars.

“He’ll get bail because of the state’s weak presentation of its case,” attorney William Tintinger told AFP. “The state can’t prove that the killing was premeditated.”

Another attorney agreed, adding: “That’s what everyone’s been thinking who I’ve talked to.”

Botha’s removal from the case comes a day after Pistorius’ defence team went after him in the witness box.

Summing up his case yesterday, defence lawyer Barry Roux told the court: “The poor quality of the evidence of investigating officer Botha further exposed ... the disastrous shortcomings in the state’s case.”

Roux had earlier cast doubt on key prosecution witness evidence suggesting the couple, who had been dating since late last year, had a bust-up before the shooting.

Prosecutors repeatedly backtracked on allegations made from Botha’s time on the stand.

Botha himself was forced to admit that Pistorius’ claims were “consistent” with the crime scene.

The Olympian and Paralympian sprinter, who has been in police custody for over a week, could face months, or even years, in pretrial detention if he does not win bail.

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