PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA: Oscar Pistorius walked out of a South African court Friday a free man — for now — after a magistrate agreed to release him on bail ahead of his premeditated murder trial over the shooting death of his girlfriend.
But even as he was driven away from court and chased by camera crews, questions continued to hound the Paralympian about what actually happened when he opened fire on Valentine’s Day inside his home and killed Reeva Steenkamp.
Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair, who agreed to bail with harsh restrictions for the athlete, expressed his own doubts about Pistorius’ story. Those questions, highlighted at a four-day bail hearing that at times foreshadowed his coming trial, come from Pistorius’ account that he felt threatened and mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired the four shots at her in his bathroom.
“Why would [Pistorius] venture further into danger?” Nair asked.
Pistorius’ supporters shouted “Yes!” when Nair made his decision after a nearly two-hour explanation of his ruling to a packed courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Yet when prosecutors and the defense said they agreed to bail terms, Nair more than doubled those conditions for the 26-year-old runner to be free ahead of trial.
Nair set the bail at $113,000, with $11,300 in cash up front and proof that the rest is available. The magistrate said Pistorius must hand over his passports and also turn in any other guns that he owns. Pistorius also cannot leave the district of Pretoria without the permission of his probation officer, Nair said, nor can he take drugs or drink alcohol.
Pistorius’ family members hugged each other after the decision was read, with tears in their eyes.
“We are relieved at the fact that Oscar got bail today but at the same time we are in mourning for the death of Reeva with her family,” said Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold Pistorius. “As a family, we know Oscar’s version of what happened on that tragic night and we know that that is the truth and that will prevail in the coming court case.”
Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva’s cousin, had said earlier that the family wouldn’t be watching the bail decision and hadn’t been following the hearing in Pretoria.
Nair set Pistorius’ next court appearance for June 4.
The Olympian left the courthouse in a silver Land Rover, sitting in the rear, just more than an hour after the magistrate imposed the bail conditions. The vehicle later pulled into the home of Pistorius’ uncle.
During Friday’s long session in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court, Pistorius alternately wept and appeared solemn and more composed, especially toward the end as Nair criticized police procedures in the case and as a judgment in Pistorius’ favor appeared imminent. He showed no reaction as he was granted bail.