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Thu Apr 24 03:31:44 SAST 2014

Pistorius ropes in heavyweight defence team

WERNER SWART, SABELO SKITI, MONICA LAGANPARSAD and KHANYI NDABENI | 17 February, 2013 08:16
Oscar Pistorius starts his men's 400m round 1 heats at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in this August 4, 2012 file photo.
Image by: DYLAN MARTINEZ / REUTERS

Oscar Pistorius has roped in a heavyweight legal team, a top pathologist, policing experts and a top spin doctor to deal with the murder charge that has left his reputation in tatters.

The athletics star has spent the weekend in custody after his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, was shot dead on Valentine's Day.

The 26-year-old's defence team was yesterday waiting to take over the crime scene at the athlete's R4-million home at Silver Woods Country Estate in Pretoria, where Steenkamp died early on Thursday morning.

The Sunday Times has confirmed that the team includes top pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal, who was present when the postmortem was conducted on Steenkamp by state pathologist Professor Gert Saayman on Friday.

Also on the team is a spin doctor and former editor of the UK tabloid The Sun, Stuart Higgins, who met Pistorius's management team yesterday.

Pistorius's defence lawyer, Kenny Oldwadge, said Perumal had been appointed to assist with a private investigation into the incident. He said other experts would be briefed soon.

Oldwadge said the team was anxious to start. "We are being prejudiced by not having been given access earlier. This is going to be an extremely long and busy weekend for all of us."

Pistorius's uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said yesterday: "As you can imagine, our entire family is devastated. We are in a state of total shock - firstly about the tragic death of Reeva, whom we had all got to know well and care for deeply over the last few months."

His brother Carl wrote on Twitter yesterday: "Thank you to everyone who has expressed their love and support to both families. This tragedy has changed the landscape of our lives."

Pistorius is due to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Tuesday for a bail application. He has yet to plead. The state intends charging him with premeditated murder. There has been no mention of any motive for the alleged murder.

Springbok and Blue Bulls rugby player Francois Hougaard, whose friendship with Steenkamp has been mentioned as a potential source of tension between Pistorius and the dead woman, yesterday sent the Sunday Times a lawyer's letter. It says: "Our client will not comment on any rumours or answer any questions regarding Reeva Steenkamp or Oscar Pistorius at this stage as this is still an ongoing investigation and this whole sad ordeal has got nothing to do with him.

"Our client is mourning the loss of a friend and we would appreciate it if you would grant the deceased the respect she deserves and not unduly influence the police in their ongoing investigation."

Pistorius spent his third night in a police holding cell last night He was visited by his sister, Aimee, 23, a priest and his grandmother. He declined the chicken-and-rice meal given to other suspects in the cells, opting to eat food from his family.

A policeman who saw him inside the holding cells said: "He had to sleep on the same mattresses the others sleep on. There's no beds here, only mattresses. He was also given two standard blankets, but his family brought him a pillow."

Pistorius's legal team will on Tuesday try to convince the court that he should get bail. He is being charged with a schedule six offence under the Criminal Procedure Act - usually reserved for crimes that carry a life sentence.

Steenkamp's half-brother, Adam, arrived from the UK at her family home in Port Elizabeth yesterday. He had heard about her death on the radio.

"I heard that Oscar's girlfriend had been shot. They didn't say her name but I called my dad straight away to find out," he said. "He then told me that it was her."

Yesterday Steenkamp's mother, June, barely stepped outside the family home in Sea View, Port Elizabeth. Her father, Barry, frequently came outside to smoke a cigarette.

Her cousin Sharon Steen-kamp said the family had not yet seen the body, which was flown home on Friday. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday.

Pistorius sobbed when he appeared in court on Friday. His lips trembled in the dock and he burst into tears.

He has one registered firearm - a 9mm Parabellum Taurus.

In a one-minute clip from a reality show that was due to air on SABC1 last night, Tropika Island of Treasure, Steenkamp is seen playing with dolphins in Jamaica.

She says: "You literally fall in love with Jamaica; you fall in love with being in love with love. It's one love everywhere.

"I'm going home with sort of a sweet taste in my mouth and I don't have any regrets, I don't have any bitterness. I take home with me so many amazing memories ... that I'll treasure forever.

"I think the way that you go out, not just your journey in life, but the way that you go out and you make your exit is so important. You either make an impact in a positive way or negative way, but just maintain integrity and maintain class and just always be true to yourself." - Additional reporting by Gareth Wilson

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Thu Apr 24 03:31:45 SAST 2014 ::