Pistorius arrives at courthouse for bail hearing

GERALD IMRAY JON GAMBRELL Published:

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Escorted by police, Oscar Pistorius arrived early at a courthouse in South Africa's capital Tuesday for a bail hearing in the killing of his girlfriend.

Prosecutors say they will press a charge of premeditated murder against the 26-year-old double-amputee Paralympian and Olympic athlete. Pistorius' family says police evidence will show there should be no murder charge.

The shooting death in the early hours of Valentine's Day of Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in Pistorius' home in a gated neighborhood has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian.

Journalists watched Pistorius, head covered with a hoodie, leave the police station and arrive at the back entrance to the courthouse in Pretoria, before 7 a.m. (0900 GMT).

Pistorius' brother Carl and longtime track coach Ampie Louw -- the man who convinced Pistorius to take up athletics -- were also in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court building, pointing out friends of the family that should be allowed in. Queue of dozens of people waited to go in that public entrance.

The family of Oscar Pistorius' slain girlfriend wants answers, her mother told a Johannesburg newspaper, as South Africans braced to hear why prosecutors believe a national hero murdered the model who was reportedly shot four times.

June Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp's mother, told The Times in a front page interview published Monday: "Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?"

"Just like that she is gone," the newspaper quoted her as saying in what it described as an emotional telephone interview. "In the blink of an eye and a single breath, the most beautiful person who ever lived is no longer here."

The bail hearing will be the first opportunity for the prosecution to describe evidence police gathered against the runner and the reasons why he was charged with murder.

Pistorius' family denies he committed murder though they have not addressed whether he shot her. When word first emerged about the killing there was speculation in the local media that Steenkamp had been mistaken for an intruder in Pistorius' home. Police have said that was not something they were considering.

In an email to The Associated Press on Monday, Pistorius' longtime track coach -- who was yet to comment -- said he believes the killing was an accident.

"I pray that we can all, in time, come through this challenging situation following the accident and I am looking forward to the day I can get my boy back on the track," Louw wrote in his statement. "I am still in shock following the heart-breaking events that occurred last week and my thoughts and prayers are with both of the families involved."

Pistorius' top sponsor, Nike, said in a brief statement to the AP on Monday that it "has no plans for Oscar Pistorius in upcoming campaigns." They declined to give any further information.

While Pistorius goes to court, Steenkamp's funeral will also be held Tuesday in her hometown of Port Elizabeth on South Africa's southern coast, her family said. It is to be a private ceremony at a local crematorium, closed to the public and media.

"We're just taking things one day at a time," Reeva Steenkamp's brother Adam Steenkamp said outside the family home. "But at the moment it's family coming together and the one person who would be the strongest, who held us all together, is unfortunately not here anymore -- and that's my sister."

Police said they arrived in the predawn hours of Thursday -- Valentine's Day -- to find paramedics trying to revive Steenkamp and said that she had been shot four times. A 9 mm pistol was recovered from the scene. Pistorius was arrested and charged with murder the same day.

Prosecutors said in Pistorius' first court appearance Friday that they would pursue a more serious premeditated murder charge against the Olympian and world's most high-profile disabled athlete.

Arnold Pistorius, Oscar's uncle, said the prosecution's own case would show there was no murder.

"We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation," he said, "and that the state's own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or indeed any murder at all."

Pistorius has been in custody in Brooklyn police station in Pretoria since Friday. His agent told the AP that there is no way to predict if he will ever run track again.

"For me it's too early to comment," Peet Van Zyl said. "I think it's still a huge shock and tragedy that took the world by surprise so I can't comment on that one (Pistorius' future career) or give any timeline to that at this point in time."

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