sport

Pistorius case enters new phase

Lawyers for the defence and prosecution will begin work on the next stage of the Oscar Pistorius case on Saturday after he was granted bail.

The Paralympic and Olympic sprinter has admitted shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp but denies the accusation of premeditated murder, claiming he had mistaken her for an intruder when he fired shots through a bathroom door in the early hours of February 14.

Chief magistrate Desmond Nair yesterday approved bail for 26-year-old Pistorius at the end of a two-hour summary in which he determined the accused posed no significant flight risk, did not have a proven propensity to violence and that there was no evidence to suggest he would interfere with witnesses.

The next hearing in scheduled for June 4.

Nair said a sworn affidavit from Pistorius describing his version of events was a crucial element in his decision.

Bail was fixed at one million rand (73,822), including 100,000 rand (7,382) in cash.

Additionally, 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.

Speaking on behalf of his family, the athlete's uncle Arnold told reporters: "We are relieved of the fact that Oscar got bail today.

"But at the same time we are in mourning for the death of Reeva with her family.

"We are also grateful for the magistrate for coming to the conclusion and for our legal team that has delivered extremely professional and legal statements that led to the decision of giving bail today.

"As the family, we know Oscar's version of what happened that tragic night and we know that that is the truth and that will prevail in the coming court case."

The star left the courthouse in a vehicle with blacked-out windows.

Earlier, his coach, Ampie Louw, who described the athlete as "heartbroken", said he might resume training next week but will not compete.

Giving his ruling, Mr Nair referred to evidence given by Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, who has been replaced as lead investigator in the case after he was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder.

It is alleged that in October 2011 he and two other police officers fired shots at a minibus carrying seven people. The case was previously dropped, but Botha was charged late on Wednesday - after he had given evidence at Pistorius' bail hearing - and is now due to appear in court himself in May.

Mr Nair said today that Botha had made "several errors and concessions" during cross-examination.

He said the officer had not asked for all the mobile phones, might have contaminated the crime scene, "blundered" on the description of substances found at the property, and did not spend as long as he ought on trying to establish that the athlete had a propensity to violence.

Speaking outside court, Medupe Simasiku, from South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), told reporters: "The bail application does not mean that this person is acquitted."

He said that when the court meets again on June 4, they will have a better idea of when a trial can be held.