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Pistorius may face homicide charge, defence concedes

By Reuters

Oscar Pistorius, charged with murdering his model girlfriend on Valentine's Day, may face culpable homicide charges, his lawyer conceded at a bail hearing on Friday.

"He is exposed to be convicted of culpable homicide," Barry Roux said in court.

 Pistorius' defence team say the athlete shot dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in a tragic mistake at his home in the early hours of Feb.14 - Valentine's Day - and deserves bail to prepare for a case that has drawn worldwide attention.

 The 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic star's lower legs were amputated in infancy, and he raced on carbon fibre blades. 

 The shooting and allegations that have emerged at the bail hearing, which resumed shortly after 0800 GMT on Friday, have stunned the millions around the world who saw his track glory as an inspiring tale of triumph over adversity.

 Police pulled their lead detective off the case on Thursday after it was revealed he himself faces attempted murder charges for shooting at a minibus. He has been replaced by South Africa's top detective. 

 In a magazine interview a week before her death, and published on Friday, Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, spoke about her three-month-old relationship with the track star.

 "I absolutely adore Oscar. I respect and admire him so much," she told celebrity gossip magazine Heat. "I don't want anything to come in the way of his career."

 Prosecutors have told the court it was a premeditated murder, with Pistorius firing four shots through a locked toilet door at a cowering Steenkamp on the other side. She was hit in the head, arm and hip.

 However, in an affidavit read out in court, Pistorius said he was "deeply in love" with Steenkamp, and lead defence counsel Barry Roux said his client had no motive for the killing.



 Pistorius contends he was acting in self-defence after mistaking Steenkamp for an intruder, and that he was feeling vulnerable because he was unable to attach his prosthetic limbs in time to confront the perceived threat.

 He said he grabbed a 9-mm pistol from under his bed and went into the bathroom. He said he fired into the locked door of the toilet, which adjoined the bathroom, in a blind panic in the mistaken belief the intruder was lurking inside.

 Witnesses said they heard a gunshots and screams from the athlete's home on an upscale gated community near Pretoria. The community is surrounded by 3-metre-high stone walls and topped with an electric fence.

 Bail hearings in South Africa allow for prosecutors and defence lawyers to lay out their basic arguments, based on preliminary evidence, and often produce sensational court coverage.

 The full trial is unlikely to start for several months. Pistorius faces life in prison if convicted.

 His arrest last week stunned millions who watched in awe last year as he sprinter reached the semi-final of the 400 metres race in the London Olympics.

 The impact has been greatest in sports-mad South Africa, where Pistorius was seen as a rare hero who commanded respect from both black and white people, transcending the racial divides that persist 19 years after the end of apartheid.