Oscar Pistorius granted bail

Defence lawyers for the 'blade runner' say he is too famous to be a flight risk. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Defence lawyers for the 'blade runner' say he is too famous to be a flight risk. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire


A South African court granted bail today to Oscar Pistorius, charged with the murder of his girlfriend, after his lawyers argued the 'Blade Runner' was too famous to pose a flight risk.

The decision by Magistrate Desmond Nair drew cheers from the athlete's family and supporters, although he appeared unmoved. Mr Pistorius had broken down in tears earlier in the week-long hearing.

The court set bail at 1 million rand (€86,000) and postponed the case until June 4th. Mr Pistorius was ordered to hand over firearms and passports, avoid his home and all witnesses in the case, report to a police station twice a week and not to drink alcohol.

The decision followed a week of dramatic testimony about how the athlete shot dead Reeva Steenkamp at his luxury home near Pretoria in the early hours of February 14th.

Prosecutors said Mr Pistorius (26), committed premeditated murder when he fired four shots into a locked bathroom door, hitting his girlfriend cowering on the other side. Ms Steenkamp (29), suffered gunshot wounds to her head, hip and arm.

Mr Pistorius's defence team argued the killing was a tragic mistake, saying the athlete had mistaken Ms Steenkamp for an intruder. They said he was too famous to pose a flight risk and deserved bail to prepare for a case that has drawn worldwide attention.

"He can never go anywhere unnoticed," his lawyer Barry Roux told the court today.

The Olympic and Paralympic star's lower legs were amputated in infancy and he has raced on carbon fibre blades.

He faces life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

Prosecutors had portrayed him as a cold-blooded killer.

"You cannot put yourself in the deceased's position. It must have been terrifying. It was not one shot. It was four shots," prosecutor Gerrie Nel said today.

In an affidavit read out in court, Mr Pistorius said he had been "deeply in love" with Mr Steenkamp, and Mr Roux said his client had no motive for the killing.

Mr Pistorius contends he was acting in self-defence after mistaking Ms Steenkamp for an intruder, and feeling vulnerable because he was unable to attach his prosthetic limbs in time to confront the perceived threat.

He said he grabbed a 9mm pistol from under his bed and went into the bathroom. He said he fired into the locked door of the toilet, which adjoined the bathroom, in a blind panic in the mistaken belief the intruder was lurking inside.

Witnesses said they heard a gunshots and screams from the athlete's home on an upscale gated community near Pretoria. The community is surrounded by three-metre-high stone walls and topped with an electric fence.

In a magazine interview a week before her death, published today, Ms Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, spoke about her three-month-old relationship with Mr Pistorius.

"I absolutely adore Oscar. I respect and admire him so much," she told celebrity gossip magazine Heat. "I don't want anything to come in the way of his career."

Police pulled their lead detective off the case yesterday after it was revealed he himself faces attempted murder charges for shooting at a minibus. He has been replaced by South Africa's top detective.

The arrest of Mr Pistorius last week shocked those who had watched in awe last year as he reached the semi-final of the 400 metres race in the London Olympics.

The impact has been greatest in sports-mad South Africa, where Mr Pistorius was seen as a rare hero who commanded respect from both black and white people, transcending the racial divides that persist 19 years after the end of apartheid.