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Pistorius defence wraps case, date set for final arguments

Lawyers defending Oscar Pistorius on charges of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp rested their case on Tuesday, allowing the court to set a date of August 7-8 for closing arguments.

Advocate Barry Roux said the sprinter’s defence team had called its last witness, heralding the final stages of a high-profile trial that is now in its fifth month.

“This matter, then, is postponed until the 7th of August 2014 at 9:30,” said Judge Thokozile Masipa.

Legal teams from both sides will submit their written arguments to Masipa before that date — the prosecution on July 30 and the defence on August 4.

The veteran judge warned that these documents must not be made public before oral arguments begin.

A leak would be a “disservice to justice, and that person who does it, is a thief,” said Judge Masipa.

The trial, which began on March 3, has garnered worldwide public attention, including a dedicated 24 hour trial channel and countless newspaper column inches.

Such was the intensity of the public gaze that some witnesses, including Pistorius refused to testify on camera, while according to Roux, some refused to testify at all.

During 39 days of court proceedings the world looked on as Pistorius — who rose to international fame at the 2012 London Olympics — appeared in the dock, weeping, vomiting and at times completely unable to compose himself as he tried to explain how Steenkamp’s death was a tragic accident.

But state lawyers showed no mercy, with pitbull prosecutor Gerrie Nel tearing apart his witnesses bit by bit as he tried to prove Pistorius knowing killed Steenkamp after an argument.

Nel cross-examined Pistorius for five gruelling days, beginning his questioning in shocking fashion by forcing the weeping and disconsolate athlete to look at gruesome images of 29-year-old Steenkamp’s blood-mottled head, which, the prosecutor claimed, “exploded like a watermelon”.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, he faces up to 25 years in jail and an abrupt end to his glittering sports career.

After Tuesday brief proceedings and ruling, Pistorius’s brother Carl broke into a huge smile.

Pistorius, carrying a colourful card in his hand from a well-wisher, immediately left the courtroom.