February 19, 2013

Pistorius: Killer or lover caught in a tragedy?

The Associated Press

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Oscar Pistorius stands following his bail hearing, as his brother Carl, left, and father Henke, second from left, look on in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday.

AP

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Barry Steenkamp, third left, the father of Reeva Steenkamp, greets people as he and others attend her funeral, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on Tuesday.

AP

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But it was too late. "She died in my arms," Pistorius said.

"We were deeply in love and I could not be happier," the athlete said. "I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine's Day but asked me only to open it the next day."

Pistorius broke down in sobs repeatedly as his account was read, prompting Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair to call a recess at one point.

"Maintain your composure," the magistrate said. "You need to apply your mind here."

"Yes, my lordship," Pistorius replied, his voice quivering.

Nair adjourned the case until Wednesday without ruling on whether Pistorius would be granted bail. However, he said the gravity of the charge — which carries a mandatory life sentence — meant the athlete's lawyers must offer "exceptional" reasons for bail to be granted, making his release unlikely.

Roux, the defense attorney, said there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge. "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder," he said.

The prosecutor disagreed.

"It is our respectful argument that 'pre-planning' or premeditation do not require months of planning," Nel said. "If ... I ready myself and walk a distance with the intention to kill someone, it is premeditated."

Hundreds of miles from the Magistrate's Court, a memorial service was held for Steenkamp in the south coast city of Port Elizabeth. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service and cremation.

Relatives recalled how the model with a law degree had campaigned against domestic violence and had planned to don black for a "Black Friday" protest in honor of a 17-year-old girl who was recently gang-raped and mutilated.

What "she stood for, and the abuse against women, unfortunately it's gone right around, and I think the Lord knows that statement is more powerful now," said her uncle, Mike Steenkamp.

South Africa has some of the world's worst rates of violence against women and the highest rate in the world of women killed by an intimate partner, according to a study by the Medical Research Council, which said at least three women are killed by a partner every day in the country of 50 million.

Since the shooting, several of Pistorius' sponsors have dropped him. On Tuesday, Clarins Group, which owns Thierry Mugler Perfumes, said it would withdraw all advertising featuring the Olympian. A cologne line with the company, called A(asterisk)Men, bears his image.

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