The Pistorius case – what you need to know

Reeva Steenkamp with Oscar Pistorius.Reeva Steenkamp with Oscar Pistorius.

These are the key facts in the murder trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius that begins at the North Gauteng High Court today

Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February last year. The Blade Runner has claimed it was not murder, but rather a case of mistaken identity as he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

The state will set out to prove that Pistorius killed Steenkamp in a fit of rage after an argument.

The case, which will be broadcast live and watched by millions around the world, is expected to be as closely watched as the OJ Simpson trial.

The charges

  1. Murder: If the State can prove that Oscar intentionally killed Steenkamp, he could face up to life in prison. If that fails, he could be found guilty of culpable homicide — killing a person through negligence — which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
  2. Possession of ammunition without a license
  3. Two additional charges of firing a gun in public: In the first incident in 2012, Pistorius fired the same gun he used to kill Reeva through the open sunroof of a car while travelling with friends. The second incident took place in early 2013 when he discharged a gun under a table at the popular Tashas restaurant in Melrose Arch.

The  key players

Judge

Thokozile Matilda Masipa has been on the bench for the past 15 years. She has heard a number of profile cases before.

The prosecutors
Advocate Gerrie Nel and Andrea Johnson. The prosecutors are known for handling high-profile cases, the biggest being the Jackie Selebi trial at which the former police chief was convicted of fraud, defeating the ends of justice and money laundering.

Pistorius’ defence team
Advocate Barry Roux is described as one of the best legal minds in the country  — very sharp and a great cross examiner.

The witnesses
The state is expected to call 107 witnesses, including neighbors who say they heard a woman scream before hearing gun shots.

Other role players in the case include Pistorius’ ex-girlfriends, Melissa Rom, Samantha Taylor and Erin Stear. The most-anticipated of these is Taylor, who dated Pistorius for 18 months and is expected to testify to the athlete’s inability to control his temper and his obsession with guns.

Shortly after the shooting, Taylor’s mother took to social media saying she was glad her daughter had escaped Pistorius’ clutches, alluding to his anger problems.

Other players

  • Mark Bachelor accused Pistorius of having anger management issues. Bachelor claims the athlete once threatened to break his legs.
  • Maria Loupis, wife of Jason Loupis, manager of Tashas restaurant at Melrose Arch.

Steenkamp’s friends

These witnesses are expected to testify to the state of Pistorius and Steenkamp’s relationship:

  • Kim and Gina Myers were Steenkamp’s best friends and they identified her body. She stayed with the Myers while working as a model in Johannesburg.
  • Darren Fresco, Gina Myers’ boyfriend
  • Warren Lahoud, Steenkamp’s ex-boyfriend
  • Sam Greyvenstein, a model
  • Justin Divaris, a businessman who introduced Steenkamp to Pistorius.

The State’s case:

• Forensic analysis of the scene, Steenkamp’s post-mortem results, and results of ballistics tests done on the toilet door and the firearm.
• On the night Steenkamp died the couple did not act as a loving couple usually does. Reeva was doing yoga, while Pistorius watched TV and allegedly viewed porn online.
• Five witnesses heard the couple arguing before shots was fired.
• Security guards at Silverwoods Estate, where Pistorius lived, called the athlete after hearing gunshots and were told by him that everything was “fine”.
• The number, trajectory and grouping of the shots fired through the locked toilet door can only be inferred to indicate a direct intention to kill the person behind it.
• The position and condition of the gun in the bathroom.
• In his version of events, Pistorius says he armed himself, walked to the bathroom and shot through the closed door without ascertaining who was behind it or whether or not he was actually in any danger.
• Steenkamp was fully clothed and standing upright, facing the door when she was shot.
• The presence of the cellphones in the bathroom seems to disprove the idea that Steenkamp was merely emptying her bladder.
• The fact that and the way in which Pistorius broke down the toilet door.
• The state claims that Pistorius’ version “is not reasonably possibly true and it is our case that if rejected by the court the objective facts will prove the murder with direct intent of the deceased.”

The murder trial is set to run from 3 to 20 March.

Sources: EyeWitness News, The Star