By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times
JOHANNESBURG — Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was involved in an altercation at an upscale nightclub Saturday and later insisted that a businessman accosted him aggressively, according to South African media.
But the businessman, Jared Mortimer, who runs a clothing company, told the Star newspaper that Pistorius was drunk, poked him in the chest, and insulted his friends and South African President Jacob Zuma.
Mortimer is friendly with several of Pistorius’ former friends.
The incident at the VIP Room in Johannesburg occurred days after Pistorius’ defense lawyers closed their case in Pretoria’s high court, where he is on trial for murder in the shooting death last year of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
The prosecution had portrayed the athlete as a self-centered, aggressive individual with an anger problem, while Pistorius’ defense team presented him as fearful, anxious, vulnerable, and a fervent Christian.
A grainy photograph emerged on Twitter showing a blurred figure that appeared to be Pistorius at the nightclub.
The athlete’s spokeswoman, Anneliese Burgess, confirmed in a statement that there was an incident and said Pistorius wasn’t to blame and that he left the club regretting he had gone there.
The day after the altercation, Pistorius posted several religious tweets and a photo collage of himself working with disabled children. He also posted a quote from Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl that the highest human value is love.
The VIP Room has a private section. Burgess said Pistorius was sitting in a quiet area of the section with his cousin when Mortimer approached.
“The individual in question, according to our client, started to aggressively engage him on matters relating to the trial,” she said. “An argument ensued during which our client asked to be left alone. Oscar left soon thereafter with his cousin.”
But Mortimer told South African media that Pistorius was drunk and behaved aggressively.
He said he was introduced to Pistorius by Guil Yahav, a professional poker player and former bouncer with a conviction assault over the fatal 2002 stabbing of another bouncer, Patrick Caetano.
“Oscar said to me, ‘Oh, you are the notorious Jared Mortimer,”’ Mortimer told the Star. He said Pistorius told him that some of Mortimer’s friends had treated him badly.
“Then he started talking about some of my friends, and he said he had statements and evidence that would get my friends into trouble. But he wouldn’t use it because he wasn’t that kind of person.
“He was drunk, but not bad. We were drinking tequila, and I still remember putting down my drink and thinking I couldn’t drink it while my friends were being spoken of like that,” Mortimer said. The businessman then said that Pistorius upset him by insulting Zuma and his family. Mortimer says he is close to one of the president’s family members.
He claimed that the double-amputee athlete jabbed a finger aggressively in his chest, so Mortimer pushed him, and Pistorius fell backwards over a chair.
“He was poking me and saying that I would never get the better of him. He was close to my face and at that point I pushed him to get him away from me. A chair was behind his legs and he fell to the ground,” Mortimer told the Star.
The newspaper reported that several witnesses also saw the altercation between Mortimer and Pistorius.
“I said to my friend, ‘Check over there, there’s a fight,'” one witness who did not want to be identified told the Star. He said he saw people holding two men apart from each other. The second man then left the club.
“He came up to us and pulled zap signs in our faces,” the man said, referring to an obscene gesture. “That’s when I realized it was Pistorius.”
Burgess said Pistorius “regrets the decision to go into a public place and thereby inviting unwelcome attention.”
AFP Photo/Alon Skuy
Interested in world news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!