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Shot girlfriend's iPad 'may hold vital clue in Oscar Pistorius case'

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 - 9:57am IST Updated: Tuesday, 19 February 2013 - 9:59am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Police 'focus on social media messages' as athlete faces bail hearing.
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The iPad owned by Reeva Steenkamp could be a key part of the Oscar Pistorius murder investigation after claims that a message from a rugby player may have provoked a row that led to her being shot, according to reports on Monday.

The device is understood to have been found in the bedroom of the 26-year-old Paralympic athlete after Steenkamp, 29, a model, was killed in the early hours of Valentine's Day. The iPad and the couple's phones are being checked by detectives, South Africa's Times newspaper reported.

Francois Hougaard, a South African international rugby player, who was a friend of Pistorius and Steenkamp, has strenuously denied that he played any part in "this whole sad ordeal".

Reports last week suggested that his "close relationship" with the model, with whom he shared an agent and a brand ambassador role, might have been a cause of tension between the couple.

Neighbours are said to have complained to security guards two hours before shots were heard at the athlete's home east of Pretoria about a noise disturbance - potentially a row, detectives believe. Steenkamp was shot four times and her skull was reportedly fractured.

Sources close to the police investigation told the newspaper yesterday that social media messages - including ones from Hougaard - might form part of the prosecution's evidence at Pistorius's bail hearing at the Pretoria Central Magistrates this morning.

Hougaard, 24, corresponded regularly with Steenkamp before her death on Twitter, posting a picture of the two of them together online after she died.

Lorinda Voges, his agent, said Hougaard was in mourning for his friend. "Our client will not comment on any rumours or answer any questions regarding Reeva Steenkamp or Oscar Pistorius at this stage as this is still an ongoing investigation... this sad ordeal has nothing to do with him," she said.

Yesterday, lawyers visited Pistorius, who won two golds and a silver at last year's London Paralympics, at the police station where he has been held since the shooting. They are believed to have helped him to draft a statement that one of his legal team is expected to read in court as part of his request to be bailed.

The prosecution team are expected to outline the case for premeditated murder and could call witnesses, including Samantha Taylor, a former girlfriend of Pistorius who has previously alleged that he mistreated her.

Peet van Zyl, the athlete's agent, said his client was struggling to come to terms with what had happened.

"I'm not a psychologist so I can't say if he's strong enough to cope with the court case," he said. "I don't think one can be all right when you are in such a situation, if you compare to what he was in London. I don't think he is OK. It's not nice to see at all. It's a tragedy all round."

It has been reported that Pistorius was tested for steroids following his arrest, after the banned drug was allegedly found at his home.

According to the City Press newspaper, police wanted the athlete to be tested in anticipation that his defence team might claim that he acted in "roid rage" - an aggressive condition associated with taking large doses of performance-enhancing drugs.

Police refused to comment on the reports and also criticised apparent leaks from the investigation team about the discovery of a blood-covered cricket bat.

The International Paralympic Committee said that they would take no action over the reports on steroids.

Craig Spence, its head of communications, said that the runner had tested negative for steroids twice in Britain in August and September last year. "It is purely speculation at the moment and it is a police matter involving a criminal case, so we will not be contacting the South African police," he said.

Separately, a friend of Pistorius claimed that the athlete nearly shot him at a restaurant recently when a pistol at which he was looking accidentally went off.

Kevin Lerena, a boxer, said: "I had quite a fright, because the bullet hit the ground centimetres from my foot." He said it was a "freak accident", adding: "For some reason it got caught on his trousers, flipped the safety pin and a shot went off.

"I wouldn't say he was negligent. Days afterwards he was still apologising."


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