south African athlete Oscar Pistorius was granted bail yesterday as he awaits trial for killing his girlfriend.
“Blade Runner” Pistorius, 26, is accused of murdering 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp at his home last week but claims he shot her through a bathroom door thinking she was an intruder.
Realising his mistake, he says he broke the door down with a cricket bat and carried her downstairs where she died in his arms.
Members of the Paralympic athlete’s family wept after Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair announced his decision to the packed court room in Pretoria.
After nearly two hours describing the reasons for his decision, Mr Nair said he was granting bail until the next hearing on June 4.
He said there was no suggestion Pistorius was a “flight risk”, he did not appear to have a propensity to violence, and there was no evidence that he would interfere with witnesses.
He said the Olympian and Paralympian had “reached out” in a sworn affidavit describing what happened that night, telling the court: “I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail.”
Bail was fixed at one million rand (£73,822), including 100,000 rand (£7,382) in cash. Pistorius must surrender any firearms and his passport, cannot enter any international departure hall, and is banned from using any prohibited substance or alcohol.
He must also report to police twice a week as part of his bail conditions.
In his affidavit, Pistorius described waking up in the early hours of Valentine’s Day and going on to his balcony to bring in a fan and close the sliding doors.
He said he heard a noise in the bathroom and was overcome by a sense of “terror”, thinking someone had broken in.
He fired shots at the toilet door, shouting to Ms Steenkamp to call the police and, when she did not reply, realised she was in the bathroom.
The prosecution has claimed Ms Steenkamp locked herself in the bathroom either to escape an argument or to escape the gun.
During the lengthy hearing, the court has heard claims that there was a risk of the athlete fleeing if the court released him on bail.
Yesterday prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he had the “money, means and motive” to do so, citing the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange whom he said was just as well known but had avoided bail by seeking refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.
He said that Pistorius’s version of events was “improbable”, compared with the state’s case which was based on “objective facts”.
Mr Nel had already told the court Pistorius’s actions that night were indicative of a man ready and willing to fire to kill.
“He fired four shots, not one shot. The only reason you fire four shots is to kill.
“On his own version, he’s bound to be convicted.”
But the Paralympian’s defence insisted he is so famous he would not be able to flee.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux added any effort to escape justice would be difficult as his prosthetic legs cannot go unnoticed through airport security and his own legs need regular medical treatment.
Pistorius’s coach, Ampie Louw, who described the athlete as “heartbroken” over the death of his girlfriend, said earlier that, if he was given bail, he could resume training next week.
During his ruling Mr Nair criticised the testimony of Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, who was replaced after he was charged with counts of attempted murder in a different case.
He said Botha had made “several errors and concessions” during cross- examination. He said the officer had not asked for all the mobile phones, may have contaminated the crime scene, “blundered” on the description of substances found at the property, and did not spend as long as he ought to have if he wanted to establish that the athlete had a propensity to violence.
Following the hearing, Kim Myers, a friend of Ms Steenkamp – whose own family were not in court – said: “This is a bail application, not a trial, and we hope and pray that justice will prevail.
“It’s still a very sad time for us and we need to remember that somebody did lose their life, and our hearts, thoughts and prayers just go out to the Steenkamp family.
“We’re still very sad. She was an amazing person.”
Pistorius won gold medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.