More sobs as Oscar Pistorius is charged

PRETORIA - The charge against Oscar Pistorius has been upgraded to premeditated murder after a judge said he could not exclude the possibility of planning in the shooting death of the track star’s girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

But the judge said he will consider downgrading the charge later.

The ruling came during an emotionally draining bail hearing, with prosecutors saying Steenkamp’s killing was premeditated and the defence saying Pistorius thought she was an intruder.

With his charge upgraded from murder to premeditated murder, Pistorius’ case for bail will be much more difficult.

Both the defence and prosecution agreed Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend in a tragic Valentine’s Day confrontation inside his upscale Pretoria home.

But the two sides gave wildly different accounts yesterday of what led to the model’s death.

Pistorius sobbed uncontrollably during the bail hearing as prosecutors described how they say he murdered his girlfriend.

The State said the killing was premeditated: Pistorius armed himself, attached his prosthetic legs and walked seven metres before shooting Steenkamp, who had come to spend the night, through a bathroom door, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.

Pistorius fired four times, Nel said; Steenkamp was struck thrice inside a locked bathroom.

As Nel spoke, Pistorius buried his face in his hands.

But defence attorney Barry Roux said the shooting was not premeditated; Pistorius shot his girlfriend thinking she was a burglar, he said.

The prosecution doubted that assertion, asking why a burglar would lock up in a bathroom.

Roux then countered how the prosecution would know that Pistorius attached his prosthetic legs and walked to the bathroom.

Police have said Pistorius and Steenkamp, now deceased, were the only ones in the home.

The case of the global sports hero known as the “Blade Runner” has riveted stunned fans around the world.

As he walked into court in a blue shirt and gray suit, frenzied photographers snapped away, prompting a magistrate to demand they stop.

The last time the world saw images of Pistorius was when he was initially charged Friday, when the Olympian wept and crumbled upon hearing the word “murder.”

The courtroom scenes are a far cry from the packed stadiums that erupted in applause for the double-amputee who dared to compete against men with legs.

As the drama in court unfolded, friends and family mourned Steenkamp at a private funeral service in her hometown of Port Elizabeth.

“There’s a space missing inside all the people she knew that can’t be filled again,” her brother Adam Steenkamp said to reporters outside.

Steenkamp was a law school graduate whose modeling career was on the rise. She landed the cover of FHM magazine and recently appeared on a reality TV show.

On Sunday, South Africans heard Steenkamp’s voice one last time after her death, when the national broadcaster aired a pre-recorded episode of the show with the model discussing her exit from Tropika Island of Treasure,”on which local celebrities compete for prize money.

“I’m going to miss you all so much and I love you very, very much,” she said, blowing a kiss to the camera.

Authorities have released little about a possible motive in the shooting.

Items found in Pistorius’ home suggest Steenkamp intended to stay the night. She had an overnight bag and her iPad, a South African official familiar with a case said Monday.

The 29-year-old model was alive after she was shot, and Pistorius carried her wounded body downstairs, said the official, who was not authorised to release details to the media.

Police were alerted to the shooting by neighbours, and residents had “heard things earlier,” spokeswoman Denise Beukes said.

Police said there had been “previous incidents” at the home, including “allegations of a domestic nature.” They did not detail what those may been.

Detectives are investigating a blood-stained cricket bat in the home, Johannesburg’s City Press newspaper reported, and are trying to determine whether it was used to attack Steenkamp, if she used the bat in self-defence, or if Pistorius used it to try to break down the bathroom door.

Pistorius, 26, has rejected the murder allegation “in the strongest terms,” his agent said in a statement. — CNN

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