herald

Monday 23 October 2017

D-Day for Pistorius as judge set to rule

Oscar Pistorius made his name by thrilling crowds with his unique sprinting style, but today the eyes of the world will fall on the athlete for very different reasons.

More than 18 months after he shot dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his luxury home on Valentine's Day 2013, the sportsman known as the Blade Runner will finally learn his fate as a judge delivers her verdict in one of the most closely followed trials of recent times.

The courtroom in Pretoria will convene for the final time to see the culmination of a case that heard from scores of witnesses and captivated a global audience with dramatic and heartbreaking scenes.

In deciding her verdict, Judge Thokozile Masipa will have to weigh Pistorius's claim that he shot Ms Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder and the prosecution's allegation that the runner intentionally murdered her after a row.

She will determine the defendant's fate alone as South Africa does not have trial by jury.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, the 27-year-old double amputee faces 25 years to life in prison, while he could be convicted of a lesser murder charge or negligent killing. He is also charged with three firearms counts.

In one night Pistorius was transformed from a global sporting icon to murder suspect. A little more than six months before the shooting, he made history at London 2012 by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympic Games.

Then in the early hours of February 14, 2013, the athlete - who had his lower legs amputated as a baby -fired his 9mm pistol through a closed toilet door at his home in Pretoria.

ROMANCE

Ms Steenkamp (29) suffered fatal injuries after she was hit in the head, arm and hip.

It was a tragic end to a budding romance that saw the pair labelled the Posh and Becks of South Africa after they started dating three months earlier.

Interest in the subsequent case was intense, and a ruling that parts of the trial could be broadcast live on TV added to the scrutiny. It opened in March with a witness describing how she heard "bloodcurdling screams" on the night of the shooting.

"It leaves you cold," Michelle Burger, who lived on a complex told the court.

Pistorius put the house up for sale to help cover his legal bills, and his lawyer said he "cannot contemplate ever returning to live there again".

The prosecution, led by Gerrie Nel - nicknamed The Bulldog for his courtroom tenacity - sought to depict the star as having a short fuse and being obsessed with guns, calling a former girlfriend who told the trial that he once shot his gun out of the sunroof of a car.

Pistorius's reactions as the case against him was set out ranged from crying during evidence about texts they exchanged and vomiting at a description of her injuries to calmly taking notes and talking to lawyers.

hnews@herald.ie

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