Prosecutors oppose bail for Pistorius

Updated Feb. 15, 2013 at 7:46 AM
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PRETORIA, South Africa, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A South African prosecutor said Friday the government opposes bail for Paralympics star Oscar Pistorius in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

Gerrie Nel told a magistrate the government's opposition stems from its belief the slaying of 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp was premeditated, the Beeld newspaper reported.

"Is the state's argument that it was a preplanned murder?" Magistrate Desmond Nair asked Nel.

"Yes," Nel replied.

Nair postponed the case until Feb. 19 when a formal bail application will be made by the defense.

An attorney for Pistorius, Kenny Oldewage, described his client as "severely traumatized."

At one point during the hearing Pistorius burst into tears and Nair told him to calm down.

Police spokeswoman Denise Beukes said neighbors had heard screaming and shouting before the predawn Thursday shooting of model and law school graduate Steenkamp in Pistorius' house in an upscale gated community on the outskirts of the country's administrative capital.

The neighbors called police when they heard gunshots, Beukes said.

Paramedics were unable to revive Steenkamp, who died of four gunshot wounds to the head and upper body, Beukes said. Officers recovered a 9mm pistol.

Early news reports indicated Pistorius, a gun enthusiast, had accidentally shot Steenkamp, thinking she was an intruder.

South Africa has one of the world's highest crime rates and many residents keep weapons to protect themselves against intruders. But gun ownership is strictly regulated and it is difficult to get a license, the BBC said.

The most serious crime of murder is known in South Africa as a Schedule 6 Offense. To get Pistorius freed on bail, his lawyers would have to prove "exceptional circumstances" during Friday's hearing for the court to rule it is in the interests of justice to release him, a United Press International review of the Parliament's Criminal Procedure Act found.

Pistorius spent the night in a police station lock-up after being fingerprinted, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported. He also gave a statement to police, the network said.

Nike Inc., one of Pistorius' major sponsors, issued a statement saying it extended "its deepest sympathy and condolences to all families concerned following this tragic incident." It declined to comment further, citing the police investigation.

Pistorius, a double- (below knee) amputee sprinter, appeared in a 2011 Nike print ad breaking out of the starting blocks to the phrase, "I am the bullet in the chamber," accompanied by Nike's signature Just Do It catchphrase.

The ad was removed from Pistorius' official website Thursday.

Pistorius won two gold medals and a silver at the September 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London.

In the Summer Olympics the month before, he reached the 400-meter semifinal and competed in the 4x400-meter relay.

Steenkamp was a model and recent contestant on "Tropika Island of Treasure 5," a South African reality TV show.

Her uncle, Mike Steenkamp, told reporters, "It was such a devastating shock that her whole life, what she could achieve, never came to fulfillment."

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