Oscar Pistorius is a South-African sprint runner who was born with a congenital abnormality that required the amputation of both his legs. Pistorius is an award-winning runner who has competed in both the Olympics and Paralympics. No victim to his birth defect, Oscar Pistorius uses prosthetic legs, whose design has had him nicknamed “The Blade Runner,” but he has shown no emotional vulnerability with regards to his disability on camera or in his personal life. That is, until the night of Feb. 14, 2013.
On Valentine’s night last year, Pistorius claims he was alerted by a sound within his bathroom. Fearing for his own safety and that of his live-in girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, he says he jumped out of bed, grabbed his gun from under the bed, and without his prosthetic legs went towards the bathroom. He reports having yelled for the person to get out of his house and for Steenkamp to call the police. Allegedly there had been some outdoor renovations done and Pistorius recalled knowing there was still a ladder outside the bathroom window that did not have burglar bars on it. South Africa is a country with a lot of gun violence and burglaries, and Pistorius has reportedly been a victim of at least one burglary in the past.
Pistorius allegedly heard movement within the bathroom and when the person inside did not respond, he fired his 9mm through the door. It turned out that Steenkamp was inside the bathroom. He found her in her own blood and carried her downstairs, and was subsequently indicted for murder. The murder trial begins on Monday, March 3, 2014.
The prosecution has claimed the murder was premeditated and alleges the Olympian was wearing his prosthetic legs when he shot through the door. However, there is allegedly a possibility of conflicting forensic evidence that may contradict the prosecution’s stance on this point. Another point the prosecution has made is that there were four phones between the bedroom and bathroom: two Blackberrys and two iPhones, and that Pistorius had used none of these to call for help. The prosecution says there was a fifth phone the indicted used to call the manager of the private estate, asking the man to call an ambulance.
Pistorius is alleged to have made a second call on this same phone to a private paramedic service. The police reportedly did not trace calls made that night, and there may be more evidence at the trial. The prosecution’s third main point is shouting a neighbor reportedly heard that night. It turns out, however, that this neighbor lives the distance of six football fields away, or 600 yards. Oscar Pistorius’ story has him shouting to who he says was to him an unknown person behind a closed bathroom door—in the end, the victim, but the question remains whether it was premeditation or vulnerability that the South African was experiencing.
Many people doubt the man’s story. The fact he did not realize his girlfriend was not in the bed is something not everyone believes, or that he did not consider it was her in the bathroom. However, his story is that he was yelling for her to call the police. If this is true, and if it is also true she did not respond, then neither did the person in the bathroom.
People find Oscar Pistorius’ stance doubtful. The fact remains, however, that the accused, unlike most, has no legs when not wearing his prosthetic limbs. It is also a fact that South Africa has a high rate of home invasions. It may be doubtful for another man in South Africa to have reacted this way, or for this man to have reacted this way in a country with a different environment. A judge will decide his guilt or innocence in the law—whether Oscar Pistorius is as the prosecution alleges, a gun-crazed offender, or simply is a victim of vulnerability to his body and living environment.
By Julie Mahfood