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'No substance' to Pistorius murder allegations

Family of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius strongly rejects prosecution claims that Reeva Steenkamp's death was premeditated murder.

PT1M23S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2elv7 620 349

JOHANNESBURG: Oscar Pistorius nearly shot a friend at an upmarket restaurant recently when a pistol he was looking at accidentally went off, a South African newspaper has reported.

The incident occurred less than a month before the Olympic athlete was charged with murder after his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead at his upscale home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

Pistorius was looking at a friend's gun at a restaurant in Johannesburg when the firearm discharged accidentally, Kevin Lerena told the Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper on Monday.

''I had quite a fright, because the bullet hit the ground centimetres from my foot,'' said Lerena, a professional boxer.

''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. The revolver belonged to one of his friends … He wanted to have a look at it.''

The restaurant manager heard a loud bang but Pistorius and his friends denied anything had happened, Lerena told the newspaper.

Pistorius is expected to make a second court appearance on Tuesday for the start of his bail hearing. He remains in custody in a police station in Pretoria.

Pistorius's manager, Peet van Zyl, said the athlete's string of international commitments had been formally cancelled.

He had been contracted to compete in races in Australia, Brazil, Britain and the US between next month and May. Pistorius was scheduled to race in Australia for the first time at the Sydney Track Classic on March 9 and in Perth a week later.

Authorities have rejected suggestions that Pistorius mistook Miss Steenkamp for an intruder and accidentally shot her.

A police spokesman refused to comment on Sunday on reports of a bloodied cricket bat being found at Pistorius's home.

Britain's The People newspaper reported that a sobbing Pistorius had phoned his friend Justin Divaris about 4am on Thursday, telling him: ''My baba, I've killed my baba [''baby'' in Afrikaans]. God take me away.''

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press