Oscar 'ready to kill'

22 February 2013 - 02:52 By GRAEME HOSKEN and SIPHO MASOMBUKA

The prosecution in the Oscar Pistorius case tried to wrest back the initiative yesterday, saying the Olympic hero was ''ready and willing to kill'' when he fired four shots through his toilet door, fatally wounding his model lover.

During a drama-filled day, which saw the police investigating officer being controversially withdrawn because of legal troubles of his own, lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel went on the offensive.

"He walked into a room to kill . he had the intention . even if it was not to kill Reeva, to kill the person in the toilet .. he had his gun with him," Nel told Pretoria chief magistrate Desmond Nair.

''[The] facts are [that] an unarmed, defenceless woman was killed ... that he planned to kill ... those are the facts.''

Pistorius, 26, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, on Valentine's Day last week.

He claims he mistook her for an intruder when he fired four shots through the toilet door in his R5-million Pretoria East security complex home in the early hours of the morning.

Though the state alleges the killing was premeditated, Pistorius's defence has argued that there is no evidence to show it was intentional. "My client is an iconic international athlete ... he definitely is not a flight risk, has no overseas homes ... he in fact loves this country and its people," said advocate Barry Roux.

"To suggest that he would do something to abscond or not face his trial is preposterous. The likelihood of release will not cause outrage, but there will be outrage if Pistorius is not released on bail.

"Even their lead investigator has confirmed our case for us . that this was unintentional," Roux said.

Nel began demolishing this defence with a blistering attack during which he painted Pistorius as a man prone to violence and threats.

He rubbished the athlete's claim that he had thought there was an intruder in the house and that he had gone to the bathroom on his stumps to investigate a noise in the dark without checking on Steenkamp, whom he thought was in his bed. "You wanted to protect [Steenkamp] but you did not even look at her . [not] even when you walked past her repeatedly . that is highly unlikely."

As if on cue, Pistorius leaned forward in the dock and began to sob, his brother, Carl, leaning forward to comfort him.

Unperturbed, Nel said the state did not have to prove that Pistorius should be kept in jail. "It is you . the onus is on you [to show you should not remain in custody], but you can't because of an untested affidavit, which, while your defence says is full, could be filled with lies.

In his questioning, Nair forced Pistorius's lawyer to back-pedal on several occasions.

''Do you appreciate the State cannot divulge all of their evidence ...,'' the magistrate asked.

''You have the investigator's testimony and if Pistorius called out, why did Steenkamp not respond?''

Pistorius had said in his affidavit that he had asked Steenkamp to call the police and that he had warned the presumed intruder in the toilet to surrender.

While the bail hearing was under way, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega removed the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, from the case.

It had emerged that Botha - who had admitted under cross-examination on Wednesday that he had missed potential evidence and might have contaminated the crime scene - faced unrelated criminal charges himself.

He is to be recharged with seven counts of attempted murder in connection with his alleged shooting at a taxi in 2011.

"Given the severity, significance and importance of the matter, I have assigned the [Pistorius] investigation to national detective head Lieutenant-General Vinsehkumar Moonoo and Gauteng commissioner Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros," said Phiyega.

"They shall establish and lead a team of highly experienced detectives to continue with the investigation."

Phiyega, in announcing her decision, said: "Botha did what he ought to do in the foundation phase of the investigation .

''Now we are going into the long-haul of the investigation.

''The case is important and requires the people we have now tasked."

Asked if she was embarrassed, especially by Botha's admission that he might have contaminated the crime scene, Phiyega said: "The police never get embarrassed."

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Bulelwa Makeke said the decision to charge Botha again was taken on February 4, more than a week before Pistorius first appeared in court.

"Charges were [initially] withdrawn because there was not enough evidence at the time . police were instructed to find more evidence and return, which they did . the case will now be prosecuted on May 24.

Though he is off the case, Botha has not been suspended from the police.

The Times has been informed that the Steenkamp family has not been contacted or offered condolences by Pistorius, his family or their representatives a week after he killed her.

"There have been no attempts to contact us ... maybe they are caught up in their own matters, but they have not had the nerve to phone or try to speak to us," said an uncle, Michael Steenkamp.