Wed Dec 07 16:26:37 CAT 2016

Crack team closes in on Oscar 'motive'

Oscar Pistorius before being granted R1-million bail by Pretoria chief magistrate Desmond Nair on Friday

THE Oscar Pistorius murder investigation has kicked into high gear as police detectives home in on a possible motive for the Valentine's Day killing of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

While Pretoria chief magistrate Desmond Nair was delivering his painstakingly detailed bail ruling on Friday, a crack team of detectives again went through the athlete's posh home in the Silver Woods Country Estate.

Pistorius, who was granted bail of R1-million, was yesterday sheltered in the home of his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, in the wealthy suburb of Waterkloof in Pretoria - his home for the next 101 days.

He will have to report to the Brooklyn police station 29 times before his next court appearance.

Officials of the Department of Correctional Services arrived at the home at 11am yesterday, possibly to check that he was following his strict bail conditions. These include that he is not allowed to consume alcohol and may not contact any of the state's potential witnesses.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku said a parole officer would be assigned to ensure the bail conditions were enforced. This would include random visits and tests.

Correctional services deputy chief commissioner James Smalberger said officials who conducted such visits had kits to test urine for possible drugs .

Officers do not use breathalysers, but the official would observe Pistorius and might decide to take him for blood tests if it is suspected he had been drinking.

Several visitors arrived at the double-storey, red-facebrick house with three double garages while private security guards kept the media at bay.

Visitors included his sister, Aimee, and brother Carl. Just before 3pm, Arnold came out to give energy drinks, water and grapes to the media camped outside the house.

Asked how Pistorius was doing, his uncle said: "It's a heartbreaking story."

Detectives are understood to be satisfied that the crime scene has been properly investigated and will now focus on other vital aspects they believe will prove the state's premeditated murder theory. These include:

  • Scrutinising the couple's cellphone records for clues about what might have led to a row, which neighbours claimed to have heard shortly before the gun shots. Police are understood to be aware of speculation of a love triangle;
  • Questioning some high-profile individuals on the Johannesburg and Pretoria social scenes over allegations that Pistorius was involved in a network that used recreational drugs; and
  • Compiling a list of Pistorius's "true assets", because questions remain over the full extent of his wealth.

Pistorius in his bail application listed movable assets, including cars worth more than R500000. Yet, five weeks ago, he told the Sunday Times he had bought himself a McLaren supercar, worth at least R3.5-million. "I drive a McLaren - a gift I got for myself for this Christmas and the next one," he said.

About claims that the athlete used recreational drugs, his lawyer, Brian Webber, said: "This is the first I've heard of it and I don't believe it."

Pistorius maintained that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and that her death was not deliberate. But prosecutor Gerrie Nel said several factors, including a loud argument before the shooting, indicated premeditation.

Four people with knowledge of Steenkamp's autopsy said claims that her skull was "crushed" with a cricket bat were "utter nonsense".

"Her only injuries were gunshot related. There were no signs of assault, none whatsoever," said a police officer.

People close to the investigation said delving into the 26-year-old's past would be key to prove he was prone to violence, as Nel had argued in court.

"The legwork on the scene is done ... all the forensics and ballistics will now be analysed by experts. The next step will be to interview all role players, going through cellphone records and so on," said one.

The Sunday Times was told that the investigation of the couple's cellphones would be "vital".

Two officers expressed surprise that it had taken so long to obtain the records , suggesting the bail hearing "could have turned out very differently" if they had been available.

One of the issues that will receive close attention is the altercation between Pistorius and former soccer player Marc Batchelor late last year, after Pistorius had allegedly threatened businessman Quinton van der Burgh.

Batchelor has already given the state a statement about the altercation, including that the athlete threatened to "break his legs". The police are said to be interested in this, because it could bolster their case that Pistorius was inclined towards violent behaviour.

Two other people, well known on the social scene, this week claimed that Pistorius was involved in the use of recreational drugs.

A former TV star, whose name is known to the Sunday Times, is understood to be ready to spill the beans about Pistorius's alleged "dark side".

Pistorius's defence team, including advocate Barry Roux and top pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal, has been bolstered by the appointment of ballistics expert Thomas "Wollie" Wolmarans.


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