THE BLOG

This Is What I'd Ask Oscar Pistorius

02/22/2013 01:00 EST | Updated 04/23/2013 05:12 EDT
AP
Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during his bail hearing at the magistrates court in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. The fourth and likely final day of Oscar Pistorius' bail hearing opened on Friday, with the magistrate then to rule if the double-amputee athlete can be freed before trial or if he has to remain in custody over the shooting death of his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

By now most of you are familiar with the tragic Valentine's day killing of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius, South Africa's famed "Blade Runner." Pistorius's claim that he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for a burglar, shooting her through a bathroom door, has left me full of questions. Let's take a look at why, starting with excerpts from Pistorius's affidavit (in grey). The full affidavit can be found here.

Let's begin with how Pistorious accounts for the events of the night.

"My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine's Day but asked me only to open it the next day. After Reeva finished her yoga exercises she got into bed and we both fell asleep."

He knew that his girlfriend was in the house -- she had in fact fallen asleep beside him. Why then he did not first assume what seems most rational -- that it was his girlfriend in the bathroom making the noise? He also says here that he was not wearing his prosthetic legs. With the legs he is 6ft 1/2 inches in height ; without them he should be at least a foot shorter, placing him around 5ft 1/2 inches. This is relevant, because it puts him closer to the surface of the bed, where it is presumably easier to see the outline of a figure (or lack of one) sleeping. He says he had also fallen asleep and so his eyes would have been adjusted to the darkness.

"I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime. I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night."

South Africa does have a serious crime problem, but that is precisely why Pistorious lives in a fortress. Doesn't waking in the middle of the night, hearing a sound in the bathroom and presuming it's a burglar when you know you have company and are in such a heavily protected home seem strange? Doesn't it also seem strange not to verify that your girlfriend (who you are deeply in love with) is not safe and in the bed beside you? Further, if Pistorius's gun was underneath his bed as he claims (presumably on his side of the bed), he would have had to reach under the bed with his right or left hand, and in so doing lower his face even closer to the surface of the bed. In that position, shouldn't he have been able to make out the absence of a figure sleeping on the bed beside him (think to your own husband, wife or girlfriend's shadowed figure when you awake in the middle of the night and look over)?

"During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realized that someone was in the bathroom. I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside."

So he heard a noise in the bathroom and "realized" that someone was there. Why did he not immediately presume that the "someone" was his girlfriend? Let's take him at his word, however, and presume he did in fact hear something -- why did he not check to see if his girlfriend was still in the bed? Or even turn on a single light? He claims to have felt a "sense of terror," so we would expect for him to behave in a manner befitting a person in such a state. Instead he made his way alone, without his prosthetics and in the dark, to confront what he believed could be an armed and dangerous robber. He did not stop to contact the authorities or wake his girlfriend and face the hallway with the pistol drawn' he instead advanced alone on his "stumps" (his words) into the unknown.

"Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps. I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on. I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed."

Too scared to switch on a light but not too scared to confront a criminal alone, with his girlfriend asleep behind him, without his prosthetics and armed only with a 9mm pistol? He claims to have "screamed words" to the effect that [the robbers] should get out of his house on the way to the bathroom. Why didn't Reeva hear his "screamed words" and yell something in return? Such as, "Where are they?!" (the criminals could have been elsewhere in the home). Why didn't she leave the bathroom to try and run to a phone? Pistorius says he screamed for Reeva to phone the police. If he yelled this in the hallway, wouldn't Reeva have heard it and tried to do what he asked? Yet Pistorius says he had no idea Reeva was in the bathroom, which would suggest she remained completely silent as he approached the bathroom door. And why wouldn't Pistorius wake Reeva up first, and tell her to call the authorities, before even approaching the bathroom?

I noticed that the bathroom window was open. I realized that the intruder/s was/ were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed and I did not see anyone in the bathroom. I heard movement inside the toilet. The toilet is inside the bathroom and has a separate door. It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet.

I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger.

I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps. I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding. When I reached the bed, I realized that Reeva was not in bed."

If he was so concerned about Reeva, why didn't he verify where she was? And if he felt so vulnerable without his legs, why did he investigate the sound before waking his girlfriend or contacting the authorities? And if it was pitch black, how was he able to walk backwards without stumbling (and on his stumps) and aim accurately at the door? And if he was capable of seeing enough to do this, how could he not see that his bed was empty?

"That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help. I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must then have turned on the lights."

Why would it only dawn on him then that the person in the bathroom could be his girlfriend? And why yell for help from the balcony before calling the authorities or even trying to break into the bathroom? Consider, you've just potentially shot and killed the woman you love; wouldn't you first check to see if she is alive before opening a balcony door and yelling for help? Pistorius then (before turning on the lights) put on his prosthetics. If he could put them on in the dark and they make him more mobile (better able to kick in the bathroom door) why did he not put them on when he first heard the suspicious noise?

"I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door. Reeva was slumped over but alive. I battled to get her out of the toilet and pulled her into the bathroom."

The cricket bat was reported to have been covered in blood. How did the blood get on the bat?

"I phoned Johan Stander ("Stander") who was involved in the administration of the estate and asked him to phone the ambulance. I phoned Netcare and asked for help. I went downstairs to open the front door. I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital. I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down Stander arrived."

Why did he phone Johan Stander before calling an ambulance?

"A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived. Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms. I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva. With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in."

Why did it not occur to him at the time that his girlfriend might have gone to the bathroom while he was outside?

Witnesses 1:

Witness 1 claims to have heard "non-stop fighting" from inside Pistorius's house in the early hours of February 14th as well as a woman screaming.

The defence claims that the scream was that of a man and that the witness was too far away to hear anything like "non-stop fighting". But clearly Pistorious did not think neighbors were too far away to hear, otherwise why run to the balcony and yell for help? And what person confuses the scream of an adult male with an adult female?

Witness 2:

Witness 2 claims to have heard gunfire and gone to his balcony to see "that the lights in the house were on." Witness 2 says this was followed by a female scream and then the sound of two more shots were fired.

The defence claims that the screams were those of Pistorious in distress after discovering he had shot Steenkamp. But according to his own affidavit, Pistorious did not turn the lights on until after he had fired the gun, put on his prosthetics and yelled for help. He claimed he was "too scared to turn the lights on." So once more the screams of a 26-year-old male were mistaken for those of a 29-year-old female? And the witness who claims to have seen the lights at the same time as hearing the sound of gunshots was mistaken? Finally, if Pistorius yelled for help after firing shots, why didn't Witness 2 year him?

Pistorious is innocent until proven guilty, but for me his affidavit raises more questions than it answers.

Reeva Steenkamp


Oscar Pistorius Shooting in pictures


Oscar Pistorius's career in pictures