'Rot in jail' protesters cry outside Pistorius bail hearing
“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius' murder case has put a harsh spotlight on South Africa's high rate of violence against women.
The country is still reeling from the gang-rape, mutilation and murder of a 17-year-old near Cape Town this month.
Members of the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress protested outside the building, waving placards saying: “No Bail for Pistorius” and “Rot in jail”.
Mourners gathered for Steenkamp’s cremation in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth in a mood of grief and anger.
“She was an angel. She was so soft, so innocent. Such a lovely person. It’s just sad that this could happen to somebody so good,” said Gavin Venter, an ex-jockey who worked for Steenkamp’s father.
“I’m disgusted with what he did. He must be dealt with harshly,” he added. “Without a doubt he’s a danger to the public. He’ll be a danger to witnesses. He must stay in jail.”
Four shots, three hits
Pistorius arrived at the court in a police car shortly before 7 a.m. Proceedings were delayed a short while as more than 100 journalists from around the world jostled to get into the dimly lit, brick-face courtroom.
Pistorius put on his artificial legs and walked across his bedroom before pumping four handgun rounds into the locked bathroom door, killing his cowering girlfriend in cold blood, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Reeva Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, died after being hit by three rounds, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.
Pistorius wept uncontrollably in court as Nel outlined details of a shooting that has gripped South Africa and the millions around the world who saw the double amputee’s track glory as the ultimate tale of triumph over adversity.
Steenkamp’s funeral is to be held later on Tuesday.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux disputed the murder charge, saying the facts surrounding the shooting in the early hours of Thursday were unclear.
“All we really know is she locked herself behind the toilet door and she was shot,” he told the packed Pretoria courtroom.
However, Nel, his counterpart at the bail hearing, painted a picture of premeditated killing — a crime that carries a life sentence in South Africa.
“If I arm myself, walk a distance and murder a person, that is premeditated,” he said. “The door is closed. There is no doubt. I walk seven metres and I kill.”
The motive is ‘I want to kill’. That’s it,” he added.
The arrest of the 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic sprinter stunned the millions who had watched in awe last year as Pistorius reached the semi-final of the 400 metres in the London Olympics, running on high-technology carbon fibre blades.
Initial reports suggested Pistorius may have mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder — a version Pistorius told his sister immediately after the shooting, Nel said.
The case has gripped sports-mad South Africa, where Pistorius was seen as a rare hero who had transcended the racial divides that persist 19 years after the end of apartheid.
Pistorius’ endorsements and sponsorships, which include sportswear giant Nike, British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler, are thought to be worth as much as $2 million a year.
Nike said on Monday it had dropped Pistorius from any future advertising campaigns. Other sponsors have said they will not make any decisions about continued support until the legal process has run its course.
However, Pistorius has cancelled scheduled track appearances in Australia, Brazil and Britain in the coming months to focus on his attempt to clear his name.
Born without a fibula in either leg, Pistorius had his lower legs amputated as an 11-month-old baby but became the highest-profile athlete in the history of the Paralympic Games.
In last year’s Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 metres in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira’s prosthetic blades, but was quick to express regret for the comments.