Pistorius, the crime of the fallen idol

“I thought he was a thief.” On this sentence, pronounced through tears and with bloody clothes as soon as the police appeared at his house on Valentine’s Day 2013, Oscar Pistorius built his defense in the perhaps most gruesome case of a sports star since OJ Simpson was indicted. of murdering his ex-wife in 1994. His girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, ​​lay dead in the bathroom, riddled with bullets by Pistorius himself, a key figure in sports history, the man who dared to break, with his perseverance, the line that separated disabled athletes from those who compete without disabilities. Pistorius killed her, of that there was no doubt. But why?.

For a year, until in Pretoria, already in 2014, a trial began that had the whole of South Africa in suspense, the soap opera grew, a story with all the elements to hook audiences hungry for morbid: the descent into hell of a athlete who embodied like no one the values ​​of human improvement, the love story with a tragic ending and many unanswered questions, all around the theory that Pistorius’s very expensive team of lawyers built to try to avoid a guilty sentence: “I believed that he was a thief ”.

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Pistorius went from a sports idol, transcendental to the history of Paralympic sport, to a sentence of 13 and a half years in prison for killing his girlfriend.

Manel Montilla / Manel Montilla

Hilton Botha, the chief inspector of the police who went to Pistorius’ home the night of Reeva Steenkamp’s death, was clear from the beginning: Oscar and his girlfriend argued, in view of the testimonies of the neighbors who detailed a she fights loudly, and the athlete killed her on purpose. Botha had already arrested Pistorius four years earlier for an incident with a woman, and drew a violent profile of the defendant that shocked his compatriots and sports fans around the world who saw a very different image in Pistorius. The athlete’s popularity, his fame and the aftermath of the affair eventually drove the inspector out of the case before the trial, as if South Africa was not ready to accept that its hero was capable of the worst.

Judge Thokolize Masipa, the second black woman to be appointed a South African high court magistrate, listened to the defense and prosecution, 107 police witnesses and experts, for 17 days broadcast on television to the country. His sentence was guilty, but lax: five years in prison for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The final review of the case, in 2017, four years after the event, was fatal for Pistorius, who saw his sentence doubled: 13 years and six months in prison.

What made Pistorius so special, so famous and so respected until the day he killed his girlfriend? Oscar was 27 years old that fateful Valentine’s Day 2013, and only a year earlier he had become the first double amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games and the World Athletics Championships, not before without a long legal fight for the estates of sport accepted that his carbon fiber blades – on which both partially amputated legs rested, above the knees, since the polio attacked him as a child – did not suppose an advantage for the impulse of his body compared to some legs of meat and bone. The suspicions came from the excellent Pistorius marks, practically at the level of a sprinter without disabilities. But the South African, Paralympic champion and world record holder in his category in the 100, 200 and 400 meters, always remembered that he was the only amputee capable of running at that pace, which made him truly responsible for his brands, more than his own. blades. His popularity overflowed, he gave motivational talks around the world and he became a celebrity of the first order, especially in his country.

A fairy tale that ended abruptly on February 14, 2013. The starting point of the case was accepted by both the athlete’s defense and the prosecution: Pistorius shot four times and killed Steenkamp through the bathroom door of your room. The key to the trial was to show if that was his purpose or if, as the athlete’s lawyers alleged, he fired, believing that an intruder was hiding in the bathroom who had sneaked in through the bathroom window, the only one in the house that did not have bars. .

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Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius, a love story that ended with bullets and sank the career of the most famous Paralympic athlete

The leader of the Paralympic champion’s team of lawyers, Barry Roux, won his first win a few weeks after Steenkamp’s death, when he dismantled the prosecution’s arguments against obtaining bail for his client. But Roux had more problems at trial to shield the psychological profile of a Pistorius lover of firearms and with numerous public precedents of an irascible character. Above all, he did not get a good explanation for a fact that almost nobody understood in the champion’s story: why did he not check if his girlfriend was sleeping in bed before loading his gun and starting to shoot at the bathroom door? Although the lawyer used as mitigating the high rate of robberies and assaults in South Africa and the obsession with the safety of Pistorius, who always slept with a gun in his bed, played against him the impenetrability of the Pistorius house, located in a residential area with maximum security measures and electrified walls, in which there had only been a couple of assaults in almost ten years. It was unlikely that an intruder could have penetrated the house.

It was hard to believe, above all, that Pistorius did not make sure that his girlfriend had not left the bed in the direction of the bathroom before shooting four times through the door of the room, located next to the bedroom. Then he broke the door with a cricket bat, and it was then, he said, that he realized he had killed Reeva. He had heard suspicious noises, but didn’t make sure it was his girlfriend who was there. “I was terrified,” he wielded.

The police officer who made the ballistic report reconstructed the scene, describing the police thesis that could be heard at the trial: Reeva, at the time of the crime, was locked in the bathroom when she received the first shot from a 9mm pistol that hit her. .