South African Olympic star Oscar Pretorius, who stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, appeared briefly in court on Tuesday after spending months trying to avoid the limelight.
The court hearing for Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday was, as expected, brief. The magistrate at the court in Pretoria granted an adjournment until 19 August so that investigations into the death of Reeva Steenkamp can continue.
Steenkamp, the girlfriend of the double-amputee Olympian, was shot by him in the pre-dawn hours of 14 February 2013 in his villa in a suburb of Pretoria. The public prosecutor accuses Pistorius of murder. Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder.
The case of the sports icon has been preoccupying people not only in South Africa, but also in the international media, which has been reporting in depth on the Blade Runner's abrupt change in fortunes.
He earned the nickname Blade Runner because he was the very first athlete to compete in the Olympic Games with two carbon fiber prosthetic limbs. He didn't only qualify for the semi-finals of the 400 meters at the London 2012 Games, he also ran in the 4 x 400 meter relay as well. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics he won two gold medals and a silver.
Back in South Africa, he was celebrated as hero. As Janet Whitton, sports reporter with SABC 1 recalls: "Everybody loved him, whatever their ethnic background or social class. Even people who were uninterested in sport worshipped him."
South Africa in shock
That affection for him exacerbated the shock felt on Steenkamp's death. "I believed he was a good man," one passerby on a South African street told DW after the events of February 14. Another South African said: "At first I just couldn't comprehend what had happened. Later, I was just simply shocked." Yet another said "I can't believe Oscar Pistorius is capable of cold-blooded murder," suspecting that it was an accident.
Whitton says that three months after the incident, most South Africans now view Pistorius' protestations of innocence with more scepticism. "South Africa has a high crime rate, there is a lot of violence against women and therefore there is not much sympathy for him," she said. In the meantime, a number of additional details have emerged, such as his outbursts of temper and interest in weapons. "They do not cast him in a good light," Whitton said.
After Pistorius had been charged with murder, it transpired that he had been lax in paying tax on his annual income of some 480,000 euros ($ 622,000 ). In a separate trial at the end of May, he was fined 80,000 euros, further sullying his reputation with the people of South Africa.
Recently, interest in the Pistorius case has subsided, though his court appearance will probably stimulate media coverage. "But it won't be sustained for very long, because his court appearance will be short," said Whitton.