As the trial of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius neared an end, his manager painted a portrait for the court Tuesday of what the sprinter’s life might have been like: huge earnings from sponsorship deals, international celebrity and a loving relationship with his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Instead, Pistorius is charged with murder after firing four shots at Steenkamp through the door to a toilet cubicle in his bathroom on Valentine’s Day last year. He says he shot her by mistake, believing her to be an intruder. The prosecution contends he killed her intentionally after the couple had quarreled.
Peet Van Zyl, who became Pistorius’ manager in 2006, told a court in Pretoria that the athlete was in a “kind, caring and loving” relationship and planned to take Steenkamp to a concert by Italian singer Andrea Bocelli in Tuscany last year.
Pistorius, a double-amputee, became a “global icon” after competing at the London Olympic Games in 2012, Van Zyl said. The athlete was on the verge of signing sponsorship deals that would have increased his income five- or six-fold when the shooting happened.
Van Zyl, who is close to Pistorius, described the athlete as polite and kind, saying he knew of only two occasions when Pistorius lost his temper. Both were when Pistorius was confronted by rude journalists, he said.
But he said Pistorius was hypervigilant about his safety, driving fast to avoid being hijacked and always choosing parking spots in bright, well-lighted places. In restaurants, Van Zyl said, Pistorius always sat near the main door, where he could see everyone who entered.
In New York, Pistorius once grabbed his manager’s arm in fright on hearing a large bang in the street, Van Zyl said.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Van Zyl about a request by Pistorius’ London roommate to be moved to another room because the athlete apparently spent a lot of time arguing and shouting on the telephone. Van Zyl said he wasn’t in London at the time, was not involved in the issue and couldn’t comment.
The defense is calling its last witnesses, after which both sides will have an opportunity to summarize their cases.
South Africa does not have a jury system. So Judge Thokozile Masipa will then determine Pistorius’ guilt or innocence with the help of two assistants known as “assessors.”
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