Oscar Pistorius appears in the Pretoria Magistrates court in Pretoria, South Africa, yesterday.
PRETORIA: Paralympic sprint star Oscar Pistorius will go on trial in March charged with murdering his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, a South African magistrate ruled yesterday, after a brief but emotional court appearance.
The 26-year-old double amputee wept and prayed with brother Carl and sister Aimee as he awaited the magistrate, who confirmed charges of murder, which carries a life sentence, and illegal possession of ammunition.
Reeva Steenkamp — a blonde cover girl and law graduate who would have turned 30 yesterday — died in the bathroom of Pistorius’ upmarket Pretoria home in the early hours of February 14.
She was shot in the head, elbow and hip.
The athlete known as “Blade Runner”, who is currently out on bail, has admitted to killing her but denied murder, saying he shot Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door because he believed she was an intruder.
Prosecutors will argue he is guilty of pre-meditated murder.
“The accused armed himself with his nine-millimetre pistol and through the locked door, fired four shots at the deceased. The deceased was wounded and died on the scene,” the charge sheet said.
Magistrate Desmond Nair said the trial would start at the High Court on March 3 and run until March 20.
Yesterday’s hearing lasted only a few minutes, as lawyers had already agreed to start the trial next year amid backlogs in the South African courts.
Pistorius appeared in the dock wearing a black suit and light blue shirt, occasionally wiping his nose and breathing heavily.
Friends of Steenkamp were also present, dressed in black.
“Ironically the 19th of August 2013 would have been Reeva’s 30th birthday, a day that should have been a celebration of her life,” their spokesman Ian Levitt said afterwards.
“Instead it will now mark a court appearance related to her untimely passing six months ago,” he added as three of Steenkamp’s friends wept behind him.
The Pistorius family said they did not immediately wish to comment.
Local media had said Pistorius may also be charged with gun offences as the state tries to cast him as aggressive and trigger-happy.
However, no other charges were listed on the indictment.
The document showed 107 witnesses, including many of Pistorius’s neighbours.
“Some of the state witnesses heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and then more screaming,” it said.
Pistorius’s ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor is also expected to testify.
Pistorius allegedly once fired a gun through the sunroof of Taylor’s car, and earlier this year reportedly discharged a gun by accident at a Johannesburg restaurant. AFP