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Blade-runner murder scandal: tragedy of our heroes

Staff Reporter

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 01:02

Colin Harris | The Houstonian

Colin Harris | The Houstonian

We all remember the 1993 film "The Fugitive" starring Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, a surgeon trying to clear his name after he was falsely accused of murdering his wife - a crime actually committed by a one-armed man.

Fast forward 20 years and we have life imitating art, in the form of an amputee allegedly murdering a woman, as double below-knee amputee and South African Olympian, Oscar Pistorius, is the alleged perpetrator of the Valentine’s Day murder of his supermodel girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at their Pretoria home.

In what’s already turning out to be one of the most salacious and tabloid-ready stories of the year, Pistorius stands accused of fatally shooting Steenkamp three times through a locked bathroom door after a romantic dispute. Even though this tragic lover’s quarrel occurred an ocean away from all of us, everybody’s bound to be talking about it.

Besides possibly murdering Steenkamp, Pistorius is best known for competing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics in the 400m and 4x400m relay races, despite losing his legs to complications from a congenital birth defect when he was 11 months old. Pistorius, aka the blade-runner, was able to compete, because he had blade-like prosthetics built from carbon fiber for the purpose of sprinting. There was some controversy about whether or not the prosthetics gave Pistorius an unfair competitive advantage but he’s largely stayed out of the limelight since then, because nobody really gives a shit about Olympic athletes, amputees or not, when the Olympics aren’t going on.

For a couple of months, Pistorius’ tale was one of inspiration.The blade-runner made our own limitations seem trivial by comparison. In November Pistorius began dating Steenkamp, won her heart, and subsequently put a couple of bullets in it, police allege.

According to Pistorius’ defense team, Pistorius awoke in the middle of the night to a mysterious noise emanating from his bathroom. Fearing burglars, Pistorius rolled out of bed, grabbed his 9 mm handgun and fired four shots into the locked bathroom door. Only then did he realize his girlfriend wasn’t in bed, but was the source of the bathroom rustling. So he put on his door-breaching prosthetic legs, vainly attempting to kick the door down. Next, he grabbed a nearby cricket bat (a staple of every South African home) and bashed the door open, discovering her bullet-riddled body and carrying it downstairs where she took her last breaths.

The prosecution would have you believe a different set of facts. They allege that Steenkamp locked herself in the sanctuary of the master bathroom after a Valentine’s Day dispute that quickly escalated. It was then that Pistorius decided to murder her for carrying on an intimate Facebook relationship with a dreamboat member of the South African National Rugby Team. He methodically snapped on his prosthetic legs and fired into the locked bathroom, killing Steenkamp.

The question of premeditation hinges on how quickly after the alleged dispute Pistorius sent a barrage of bullets through his bathroom door. The prosecution argues that the time taken to equip prosthetic legs is sufficient for a charge of premeditated murder, whereas Pistorius contends that he shot into the bathroom before he donned his prosthetics.

The same tools which granted Pistorius the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, despite being a double-amputee, may turn out to make the case for the prosecution hoping to put him behind bars for the rest of his days. Regardless of the outcome, nothing illustrates life’s rich pageant quite like the tragic downfall of Pistorius, a man who proved disabled people truly are capable of anything, even fatal acts of domestic violence.

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