Oscar parties

14 April 2013 - 02:00 By WERNER SWART

MURDER accused Oscar Pistorius was seen "knocking back" drinks and feeling up women at a private party at a trendy Johannesburg restaurant last weekend.

This week, his family put out a statement saying Pistorius mourned Reeva Steenkamp every moment of the day.

In response to stories about disparaging remarks made about Steenkamp by a group on Twitter calling themselves Pistorians, they slammed "the South African tabloid press" and social media users for disregarding "the profound pain that Reeva's family and friends are going through".

And a few weeks ago, a close family friend told the Sunday Times that Pistorius was cooped up at the home of his uncle, Arnold, watching a bit of television and reading the Bible.

But last Saturday, Pistorius astonished patrons at a popular restaurant when he arrived, apparently relaxed and happy, at a party at Kitchen Bar restaurant at the Fourways Design Quarter in Johannesburg.

He was with controversial tow-truck baron Craig Lipschitz and others.

Lipschitz, a director of First Road Emergency, made headlines in 2008 when he became involved in a vicious brawl with a former bouncer in Sandton.

On Saturday, at least four bodyguards kept a close watch on Pistorius and Lipschitz, who travels with protection since a 2009 turf war between rival tow-truck groups in Durban.

In a statement on Thursday, Pistorius's spokesman, Anneliese Burgess, said: "There is not a moment in the day that Oscar does not mourn for his girlfriend, and Reeva's family and all those who were close to her are in his thoughts constantly."

Pistorius shot Steenkamp at his Pretoria home on Valentine's Day and is facing a charge of premeditated murder. He claims he mistook her for an intruder.

The family statement criticised social media users for insensitive remarks and said Oscar's grieving process was "incredibly overwhelming".

This is at odds with an account given by a woman at Saturday's party, who said: "He was drinking shooters and he was flirtatious. He didn't seem like someone [who had] lost the love of his life."

Five people who said they saw a "relaxed-looking" Pistorius said his arrival at the venue's private dining area, after 9pm, was frowned upon by some guests.

"One moment we are all talking and laughing and the next, in walks Oscar," one said.

"He's the last person we expected to see ... I can't believe he showed his face in public, carrying on as if nothing's happened".

Pistorius, sporting a beard, is said to have flirted with several women. "He was greeting a couple and then gave the woman a little pat on her backside. It was just so inappropriate," said the guest.

Burgess told the Sunday Times yesterday that Pistorius "strenuously and vigorously denies any inappropriate behaviour towards any people or women present, or 'partying it up' with shooters".

"Oscar did go out last Saturday with friends," she said.

"It was the first time since the tragic and horrific events of the 14th of February that Oscar went out with friends. He has been out of the house with family, but this was the first time he went out to a restaurant with people other than close family.

"For Oscar, it was a way of trying to reconnect with friends of his and Reeva's - and these were the people he was out with," she said.

"It is regrettable that what was supposed to be a low-key evening reconnecting with friends is now being blown out of proportion for sensational reasons. "

Burgess said Pistorius left the Kitchen Bar when "public interest became overwhelming".

"He then spent around half an hour at Buddha Ta and left for the same reason," she said.

Buddha Ta is opposite Kitchen Bar. A manager there declined to comment on Friday.

Another guest at Kitchen Bar said : "The place went quiet when people realised it was Oscar and [the mood] never really recovered from there."

Lipschitz said yesterday: "I wouldn't like to get involved in the personal side of Oscar ... I'm not in a position to comment, as much as I would love to."

Pistorius, who was not on the party guest list, was apparently brought along by an invited guest. Some guests told him how "sorry" they were about his situation and others shunned him. He and his group left after staying only 40 minutes.

"One woman even gave him a piece of jewellery to keep for good luck," one of the people at the party said.

Another man said he found it odd that Pistorius was so "talkative".

"I think he got the clear message from most that people were dismissive of him. He probably didn't get the reaction he wanted," he said.

Pistorius successfully challenged his initial strict bail conditions in terms of which he was forbidden to consume alcohol. The High Court in Pretoria also allowed him to travel.

Pistorius was also spotted shopping on Friday. Apart from when schoolchildren snapped a picture of him walking on an athletics track in Pretoria three weeks ago, there have been no other reported sightings of the athlete in public.