Pistorius due back in the dock
South African double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius will return to court Monday, when he is expected to be indicted for murdering lover Reeva Steenkamp and receive a date for trial.
The 26-year-old sprinter will appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court six months after shooting dead girlfriend Steenkamp in the toilet of his upscale home.
The platinum blonde cover girl and law graduate died on Valentine’s Day after being shot in the head, elbow and hip.
She would have turned 30 on Monday, when prosecutors are expected to unveil a five-page indictment against Pistorius for premeditated murder, according to sources close to the investigation.
The hearing is expected to be brief, and according to Pistorius family spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess the “chances are very high that a trial date will be set.”
Pistorius, who is out on bail and faces a life sentence if found guilty, has denied murder, saying he shot Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door because he believed she was an intruder.
The trial is not expected to start until 2014, given the backlog in South Africa’s regional high courts.
A single senior judge will hear the case. South Africa does not have a jury system.
The indictment could detail key aspects of the police investigation into Steenkamp’s death that came under scrutiny during a lengthy bail hearing.
These may include ballistics information from the bathroom door suggesting Pistorius’s height at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors assert he donned his two prosthetic legs before firing four shots through the bathroom door, a delay they say proves the murder was premeditated.
The athlete, who was born without calf bones and had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, claims he was on his stumps.
The indictment could also shed light on phone records from four cell phones found outside the room where Steenkamp had locked herself in.
Investigators had to contact mobile manufacturer Apple in the United States as well as Interpol to access one of the phones, Pistorius’s iPhone 5.
The athlete apparently could not remember the four-digit pass code to unlock the phone, according to media reports.
South Africa’s much-maligned police force is under immense pressure to help secure a conviction, after the bail hearing showed up shoddy police work that led to the whole investigation team being replaced.
Police failed to find all the bullets fired, potentially contaminated the crime scene and misjudged the distance to the spot from which a witness claimed to have heard shouting earlier in the night.
Pistorius, who runs on two fibre-glass prosthetic legs, catapulted to fame as the first double-amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes at last year’s London Olympics.
But since the February shooting his reckless past of fast cars, beautiful women and fascination with guns has emerged.
He was released on bail of one million rand ($101,000, 76,000 euros) a week after killing Steenkamp.
After withdrawing from international athletic events, Pistorius restarted light training for “mental and emotional equilibrium”, his family said in June.
After an initial silence, Steenkamp’s parents lashed out at him, speaking of quarrels their daughter had with the athlete in their five-month relationship.
He broke down several times in court during the February bail hearing and family members have spoken openly about his trauma.
The killing sent shock waves around the world and halted his stellar career, ending lucrative endorsement deals with US sportswear giant Nike and French cosmetic firm Clarins.
Pistorius also reportedly was fined one million rand for undeclared taxes.
In the months following his release the sprinter has kept a low profile.
But he has been spotted in public a few times, most recently while kayaking last Sunday in harbour town Hermanus east of Cape Town.
“He had to get out of this jail,” his uncle Arnold Pistorius told Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper, referring to the athlete’s seclusion.