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Pistorius was 'avid gun collector' in months before Reeva shot dead

IN his Olympic year, Oscar Pistorius steadily became an avid firearms collector, joining a gun-collecting club and purchasing a collection of firearms that included a .500 Magnum pistol dubbed by its manufacturer as "the most powerful production revolver in the world".

At the end of 2012, in the first blush of his romance with Reeva Steenkamp, the model he later shot and killed, Pistorius got deeper into his hobby.

It was known that Pistorius liked guns but only now, from interviews with other collectors, is it becoming clear the extent to which he became a firearms aficionado in the year before he shot Steenkamp.

LICENSES

The track star not only applied for licenses to own more guns, but actually bought them, too, according to John Beare, vice chairman of the Lowveld Firearm Collectors Association which accepted Pistorius as a member last April.

He and Pistorius were introduced at a Johannesburg hotel in January 2012, and it was there that Beare first explained to the athlete and some of his friends how to become certified collectors.

Had he not become a collector, Pistorius would under South African law have been limited to a maximum of four firearms for self-defence, of which only two could have been handguns, according to Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood.

Carvel Webb, chairman of the National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa, an umbrella group for the country's 2,000 approved private collectors including Pistorius, said that in the wake of Steenkamp's killing, his group will now verify that Pistorius fulfilled the necessary requirements to be accepted as a collector.

"We'll review all of those just to see if we are happy with it," Webb said.

Pistorius made no secret of his passion for firearms. Reporters who visited him at home in Pretoria saw the pistol he kept by his bed. He practiced at firing ranges both in South Africa and in Europe where he trained for the London Games. But less well-known was his involvement with gun collectors to start building a firearms collection.

Beare said he twice observed Pistorius shoot at firing ranges and also at a clay pigeon shoot, but saw nothing to suggest he could be a menace with a gun.

"His safety was good," Beare said. "He wouldn't do anything irrational with a firearm, because then I would have nailed him."

Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend Steenkamp for an intruder and shot her while she was in his bathroom toilet, firing through the door.

Prosecutors charged Pistorius with the premeditated murder of Steenkamp in the early hours of February 14.

"I had no reason to believe that there was anything wrong," said Beare.

However, Roberto Siriu, president of the Tolmezzo shooting range in northeast Italy, said Pistorius did not seem to him to be well-trained with guns.

"I don't think so. He didn't give me that impression," Siriu said.

Pistorius shot at Tolmezzo during breaks from athletic training in the nearby town of Gemona. In November 2011, Pistorius posted a photo of himself firing a rifle at Tolmezzo, with the words: "Had a 96pc headshot over 300m from 50 shots! Bam!"

hnews@herald.ie


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