Africa

Oscar Pistorius 'became global icon at London Olympics'

  • 1 July 2014
  • From the section Africa

Oscar Pistorius became a "global icon" at the 2012 London Olympics and was set for further success, his manager has told his murder trial.

Peet van Zyl said the South African athlete could have increased his income by five or six times.

Six months after the Games ended, he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria.

He denies murder, saying he killed her by mistake when fearing there was an intruder in the house.

The double-amputee competed in both the Paralympic and Olympic games in London.

Mr Van Zyl said Mr Pistorius was an "astute businessman" and there were a lot of opportunities for him because of his raised profile.

The BBC's Andrew Harding, at court in Pretoria, says that as he sat in the dock, Mr Pistorius must surely have contemplated the future outlined by Mr Van Zyl - a future now utterly transformed.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Oscar Pistorius was described as an "astute businessman"

At the scene: Andrew Harding, BBC News, Pretoria

Trials are, necessarily, about past events. And yet in court on Tuesday, we were treated to a tantalising glimpse of the future Oscar Pistorius might once have had.

It wafted through the courtroom like a patch of unexpected sunlight, before prosecutor Gerrie Nel - true to form - marched over and yanked down the blinds.

It was Mr Pistorius' manager, Peet van Zyl, who had conjured up the sunlight - talking with enthusiasm about his client as a newly minted "global idol" with vast new wealth and "brand ambassadorships" within his grasp, deeply in love with his new girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and surprising her with concerts in Tuscany and athletics showdowns in Rio.

After weeks of testimony about blood and gunshots, one can only wonder what Mr Pistorius, sitting impassively in the dock, was thinking.

The trial itself is nearly over. The defence may call one or two more witnesses, and I understand that the prosecution may then ask the psychologist who assessed Mr Pistorius over the past month to give evidence.

Three psychiatrists compiled one report, which I'm told was a relatively brief document confirming that the athlete is mentally fit to stand trial.

The psychologist's report is much more detailed and, sources tell me, argues that Mr Pistorius was not suffering from any anxiety disorder prior to the death of Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius' other future

Mr Van Zyl also described Mr Pistorius' relationship with Ms Steenkamp as "loving and caring" and implied he was more serious about her than previous girlfriends.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he did not know Mr Van Zyl would be called to testify and asked for the trial to be adjourned until Wednesday so he could prepare his cross-examination - a request the judge granted.

Earlier, acoustic expert Ivan Lin was cross-examined about whether screams heard on the night of the shooting were from a man or a woman.

Prosecution witnesses say they heard a woman scream on the night of the killing, while Mr Pistorius says he was the only one who screamed.

Mr Pistorius, 27, says he fired multiple shots into a toilet cubicle where Ms Steenkamp was, while in a state of panic.

The prosecution accuses him of premeditated murder, and says the couple had a row before he shot Ms Steenkamp dead.

Mr Lin suggested that it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for any of the neighbours - given their distance from Mr Pistorius' home - to have heard with clarity the screaming on the night of the shooting.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The athlete underwent tests on his mental state at the Weskoppies Hospital in Pretoria

The trial resumed in the capital, Pretoria, on Monday, after a month-long adjournment while Mr Pistorius underwent a month of tests as an outpatient at Weskoppies psychiatric hospital in Pretoria.

The medical report said he was not suffering from a mental disorder when he shot dead Ms Steenkamp.

This meant the Olympic athlete was criminally responsible for his actions when he shot her, the prosecution said.

The defence team has said Mr Pistorius was suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp, 29, had been dating for about three months before the shooting.

She was a model and law graduate.

He has often displayed his emotions during the trial, including breaking down in tears in court.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, so the athlete's fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

If found guilty of murder, Mr Pistorius, who went on trial on 3 March, could face life imprisonment. If he is acquitted of that charge, the court will consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could - if convicted - receive about 15 years in prison.

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