Oscar Pistorius was granted bail on Friday, paving the way for him to be freed from custody pending his trial in the Valentine’s Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair made the ruling Friday after four days of arguments from prosecution and defense in Pistorius’ bail hearing, and after spending about one hour and 45 minutes announcing his decision.
Mr. Nair said Pistorius’ affidavit, in which he gave his version of the events of the shooting on morning of Feb. 14 in a sworn statement, had helped his application for bail in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.
Pistorius’ supporters shouted “Yes” when the magistrate made his ruling. Mr. Nair then ordered a court break before establishing the terms of the bail.
Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp in the predawn hours of Feb. 14. The athlete says he shot his girlfriend accidentally believing she was an intruder in his house. Prosecutors say he intended to kill Steenkamp and charged him with premeditated murder, saying the shooting followed a loud argument between the two.
Earlier, South African prosecutor Gerrie Nel devoted much of Friday’s bail hearing trying to cast a shadow of improbability over Oscar Pistorius’ version of events about the night he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The hearing was in its fourth and possibly final day, with judge Desmond Nair needing to determine if the Paralympics icon will be released on bail or continue to be held in detention on a charge of premeditated murder.
Nel argues that Pistorius is a flight risk and should not be granted bail. The prosecutor also says the defendant has failed to recognise the seriousness of having killed his girlfriend.
“It is business as usual. Let me go out, give me bail, let me continue my career. That is what worries me about this application,” Nel told the court.
The judge at one point questioned the prosecution about what type of life the double-amputee athlete would have if he went on the run, though Nel quickly retorted that he saw no difference in the risk if a person wears prosthetics or not.
The defence team, headed by Barry Roux, has argued that Pistorius, 26, will not flee from a trial. It has held that Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in a bathroom at his Pretoria home after mistaking her for an intruder in the middle of the night.
Nel insists elements of Pistorius’ story are “improbable” and worked to poke holes in the defendant’s story. For example, while Pistorius tried to present himself as someone desperately afraid of violent crime, Nel noted that doors and windows were left unlocked.
In taking on the charge of premeditated murder, Nel says the killing was not necessarily planned days in advance, but rather that it was thought out in the immediate lead-up to the fatal shooting of the 29-year-old model, following an argument between the couple.
Nel laid into the defence for only submitting an affidavit in Pistorius’ name but not actually calling the defendant to testify.
Pistorius, in his statement, said he thought Steenkamp was in bed when he opened fire four times, but the prosecution has put this into question, doubting that the athlete was not aware of his girlfriend’s location when shooting a 9mm gun into a closed bathroom.
The case for the prosecution has been damaged by the fact that the credibility of its key witness has been thrown into question after lead investigator Hilton Botha agreed with the defence that there was no direct evidence contradicting Pistorius’ version of events. Botha also conceded that some police work was sloppy.
The detective was then removed from the case after it emerged he was facing seven counts of attempted murder related to a 2009 case in which he opened fire on a minibus.
The police have since replaced him with a top official, Lieutenant General Vineshkumar Moonoo, who will now head up the investigations.
He appeared in court for the first time on Friday morning.
Pistorius has often been emotional during the hearing, sobbing at times as the shooting has been recounted, with his family often reaching over to comfort him.