Oscar Pistorius: A rolling timeline

UPDATED: New details emerge of Reeva Steenkamp's meeting with an ex-boyfriend, just days before she was killed

Topics: Oscar Pistorius, South Africa, Olympics, Guns, Paralympics, reeva steenkamp, ,

Sept. 13, 2009: Oscar Pistorius is arrested for assault in Johannesburg and spends a night in prison. He was first arrested for assault after slamming a door in a woman’s face, but the police later changed their charge to common assault. According to Reuters, the charges were eventually dropped.

Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013: Reeva Steenkamp, the South African model and girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, tweets her excitement for Valentine’s Day. She also retweets her support for an end to rape and violence against women, a fact many commented on, given the tragic circumstances of her death in the early hours of the next morning:

Wednesday night, Feb. 13, 2013: A resident of Silver Woods, the “security community” in which Pistorius lives, tells British newspaper the Independent that Steenkamp arrived at her boyfriend’s home around 8:15 p.m. The resident said that the estate manager gave  police video footage of her entering the home. The next day, police spokeswoman Denise Beukes questioned the rumors that Pistorius mistook his girlfriend for an intruder, saying, “We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”



Thursday morning, Feb. 14, 2013: Pistorius is arrested and charged with murder after allegedly shooting Steenkamp. According to South Africa’s Afrikaans language newspaper, Die Beeld, the incident happened around 4 a.m. local time. The BBC reports that Steenkamp’s body was removed from the house around 8:30 a.m., with a police spokeswoman confirming that she had been shot in the head and arm. Police found paramedics treating Steenkamp, who died at the scene. Officers recovered a 9 mm pistol.

Early reports suggested at the possibility that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, and police reported neighbors’ claims of shouting and screaming at the time of the incident, similar to domestic violence investigations they had conducted at the athlete’s home in the past. After hours of questioning, Pistorius was seen leaving a police station with his face hidden behind a grey hoodie.

Thursday afternoon, Feb. 14, 2013: Oscar Pistorius’ hearing is postponed until Friday when forensic investigators are given more time to conduct their findings, and prosecutors make it clear that they will be opposing requests for bail. Pistorius’ sponsors are hastily removing images of him from their ads and billboards, including African satellite broadcaster DSTV and corporate giant Nike, which featured the athlete in an ad reading, “I am a bullet in the chamber.”

Friday, Feb. 15, 2013: Pistorius holds his face in his hands and weeps during his court hearing in Pretoria, as prosecutors announce that they will pursue a charge of premeditated murder. The chief magistrate delayed his bail hearing for the next Tuesday and Wednesday, and ruled that the Olympic athlete would remain in police custody until then. Police are reported as saying they oppose him granting any bail.

Oscar Pistorius

Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013: Steenkamp’s reality television show, “Tropika Island of Treasure,” is scheduled to broadcast Saturday evening despite the star’s tragic death two days earlier. The show’s producer defended the decision to BBC, saying it was made after consulting with Steenkamp’s family, and had nothing to do with ratings. The exotic reality show was filmed in Jamaica, where several celebrity personalities compete for a 1 million rand prize. Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva’s cousin, told the Associated Press that, “Her last words to us personally was that she wants us to watch it,” and that the family did not oppose the airing of the show.

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

South African news outlet City Press reports an unverified claim that a bloodied cricket bat was also uncovered by police at Pistorius’ home.

A police spokeswoman could not explain how the claims emerged but did not deny them, according to the Guardian. “We are not commenting on anything in the newspapers today as the case is still before the court,” she said. “They are insinuating they got the information from the police. They did not.”

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013: Steenkamp is laid to rest at a funeral in her home city of Port Elizabeth, before being cremated at a private ceremony. The 29-year-old’s brother paid tribute to her life and death. That same day, on the first day of his bail hearings, Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder. The magistrate also rules that he face the harshest bail requirements. Prosecutors said the Olympic athlete fired four rounds into the bathroom door where Steenkamp was hiding, hitting her three times. They also allege that the shooting occurred after a shouting match, “She couldn’t go anywhere. You can run nowhere,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said. Pistorius’ lawyer insisted the shooting was an accident, and that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. Outside the magistrate building, members of the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress protested with posters saying “Rot in Jail” and “No Bail for Pistorius.”

In a sworn affidavit written by Pistorius and read at the hearing, the Olympic athlete insisted that he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he fired four rounds through the bathroom door. After receiving death threats in the past, he kept a firearm beside his bed, he said, and felt “a sense of terror” when he heard a noise in the bathroom. The statement also said that the athlete was “deeply in love” with his girlfriend, and “denied in the strongest terms” that he had deliberately killed her. Moments after the shooting, he “picked Reeva up as I’d been told not to wait for the paramedics. … She died in my arms.”

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013: On the second day of his bail hearing, Pistorius told the magistrate court that he had been sleeping up until moments before the shooting began. Prosecutors and chief investigative officer Hilton Botha, however, argued otherwise and presented testimonies from neighbors who heard “non-stop talking like fighting” between 2 and 3 am. Botha added that a witness testified to hearing screams and gunshots from the house as well. Botha later cast doubt on the validity of this evidence when he gave two conflicting accounts of the witness’ distance to the alleged altercation, first saying the witness was 600 meters away and later amending it to 300 meters. The detective also stated his belief that the murder was premeditated, and that he discovered her dead body under towels when he arrived at the scene around 4:15 am. Pistorius’ brother and lawyer were already there when Botha arrived.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013: In a surprising twist, Botha is revealed to be facing his own attempted murder charges related to a 2009 incident in which he and several other officers opened fire on a minibus taxi that, carrying several passengers, disobeyed an order to stop. National police commissioner Mangwashi Phiyega announced the decision to replace Botha with Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo, a veteran of some 30 years. At the hearing, the defense argued that the prosecutor’s evidence was questionable, citing Det. Botha’s contradictory reports of his witness earlier, as well as the police’s failure to track the ammunition inside the house and to wear protective clothing at the crime scene. Lead defence lawyer Barry Roux said, “The poor quality of the evidence offered by investigative officer Botha exposed the disastrous shortcomings of the state’s case.” Prosecutor Gerrie Nel countered that Pistorius’ celebrity status and fame should not grant him bail.

Nike announces that it has suspended its contract with Oscar Pistorius in the wake of the athlete’s murder charges. In its statement the sports apparel giant said, “we believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.” In previous scandals, Nike dropped Lance Armstrong in October 2012 but stood by Tiger Woods in the middle of his sex addiction rehab treatment and the news of his multiple infidelities.

Friday, Feb. 22, 2013: On the fourth day of his bail hearing, Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair provides a lengthy summary of the trial, even providing an etymology of the word “bail,” which lasts a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes. He then announces his decision to grant Pistorius bail set at 1 million rand, or $115,000. Nair presented his criticism of the state’s handling of the case, including former police investigator Botha’s inconsistent testimony, and felt there was insufficient evidence to prove that Pistorius is a flight risk.

Pistorius will be released until his next court appearance on June 4. As a condition of his bail, he must surrender his passport and all travel documents. He will also be forced to turn in all of his weapons and firearms, and is prohibited from purchasing or owning additional firearms. He will report to a probation and correctional officer upon his release and until the case concludes.

Despite being granted bail, the chief magistrate also made it clear that the Olympic athlete has a lot to clarify ahead of his murder trial. Pistorius is reported to have been trembling and sobbing as Nair summarized the defense’s case.

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva’s cousin, told the Associated Press that she wouldn’t be watching the bail decision, but commented on the ruling:

“It doesn’t make any difference to the fact that we are without Reeva.”

Thursday, March 8, 2013: Former lead detective on the Oscar Pistorius murder case, Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, resigned from the police force after 24 years of experience.

Botha was the first officer on the scene of the shooting at Pistorius’ home, but got crucial facts wrong at the athlete’s bail hearing. He came under fire again when it was publicized that in 2011 he faced attempted murder charges for firing at a vehicle.

“He handed in his resignation yesterday and it was accepted with immediate effect,” said police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila. “We are not going into the details.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013: Reeva Steenkamp’s former boyfriend of five years, Warren Lahoud, reveals that the two had met for coffee days before she was shot dead in Oscar Pistorius’ home. Lahoud, a vegetable exporter, insisted that the coffee date was nothing but “innocent,” but that the Olympic runner interrupted their meeting with frequent phone calls. Lahoud says Steenkamp assured him that there was “nothing wrong” in her relationship with Pistorius at the time.

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