Pistorius free, but movement restricted

2013-02-22 22:24
Oscar Pistorius (Picture: AFP)

Oscar Pistorius (Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius was on Friday released from custody after being granted bail, but the conditions thereof severely restrict his movement.

Pistorius thanked Magistrate Desmond Nair, and walked out of the Pretoria Magistrate's Court C, nine days after news broke that he had shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a bathroom at his house, on Valentine's Day.

After listening to extensive argument, Nair ruled that he was not a flight risk, and that the State had not shown that he had a propensity for violence.

Bail was set at R1m, R100 000 of which was paid to secure Pretorius's release. The balance must be paid by 1 March.

Pistorius was whisked away in a Land Rover soon after the payment was made, as media gave chase.

The strict bail conditions include that he not be charged with any offence relating to violence against women.

He would not be allowed to return to Silver Woods country estate, scene of the shooting, unless accompanied by the estate manager; he has to surrender his passport; he cannot apply for travel documents; he must report to the Brooklyn police station on Mondays and Fridays at set times; and he can't take banned substances, drugs or alcohol.

He will live at an address not publicly disclosed, among other conditions.

He must return to the court on 4 June.

Asked if he thought the conditions were fair, his lawyer advocate Barry Roux said: "Of course it's fair".

His uncle Arnold Pistorius said the family was "relieved".

"At the same time we are in mourning for the death of Reeva with her family."

A shout of "yes" went up in the court on Nair's ruling, prompting the ANC Women's League to complain that some men in court reacted "as if they had [seen] woman [as] a trophy, forgetting that an innocent woman has lost her life".

Issue is not guilt

Nair stuck to his ruling that it was a "Schedule 6" offence, a premeditated murder charge as the State had argued, but made it clear he was not ruling on whether Pistorius was guilty.

"I am not here at this point in time to find the accused guilty of pre-meditated murder," Nair said.

That was for a trial court to decide. His defence could also apply to have evidence removed.

"The issue is not guilt, but where the interests of justice lie in relation to bail," said Nair.

He summed up statements from Steenkamp, who had thought although "it [the relationship] was moving fast", she was "in love" with him and that Pistorius wanted her to travel overseas with him.

But he had problems with aspects of Pistorius' statement.

"I have difficulty in appreciating why the accused did not ascertain the whereabouts of his girlfriend when he got out of the bed," said Nair.

Other "problems" Nair had was why Pistorius did not check who was in the toilet.

Also, why Steenkamp and Pistorius could not escape through a bedroom door rather than venture into the toilet, and why he would further venture into danger in the toilet.

"To my mind, what if he came out and the intruder was waiting for him?" asked Nair.

He criticised Warrant Officer Hilton Botha's work at the scene, listing problems such as what happened to a first urine sample, why he did not contact Interpol to verify a magazine article that Pistorius had a house in Italy, why he did not "bother" to ask for or check Pistorius' or Steenkamp's cellphones, why he did not seize a memory stick, why he did not call Netcare to confirm the call made by Pistorius.

"What was astounding of course was his perception [of] distances," said Nair.

Botha had said witnesses about 600m away from Pistorius' home heard arguing, but then Botha changed this to 300m, then "even less".

But Nair said he was satisfied with Botha's contention that if Pistorius wanted to protect his girlfriend, why would he "charge into the danger", by entering the bathroom, when there were other options.

"Whose fault is it really? Warrant officer Botha is not the State's case."

Botha has been replaced with Lieutenant General Vineshkumar Moonoo.

Nair added that Botha's concessions "by no way means" he agreed with the defence's version.

'It's his evidence that might to an extent have been tarnished, not the State case," said Nair, adding that experts would put together the case for trial.

Visit News24's Oscar Pistorius Special Report.

Read more on:    desmond nair  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux

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