Holding hands with his brother and his sister in a small circle, his head bowed in prayer, an emotional Oscar Pistorius spent a few quiet moments with his family before proceedings got underway in a Pistorius Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning.
The Paralympic champion wiped tears from his eyes as he attended a short hearing to be formally charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Poignantly, it would have been the late model’s 30th birthday.
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After quiet finally descended on the packed court room, a judge set the trial to run from 3 March until 20 March next year at North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Bail conditions will remain the same.
Asked by Judge Desmond Nair if he was well, the 26-year-old athlete replied, “Under the circumstances, your honour.”
Oscar has denied murdering his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day of this year. He says he shot Reeva after mistaking her for an intruder.
Last week, police wrapped up their six-month investigation into the case.
If Oscar is convicted of premeditated murder, he faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison.
A judge will preside over the trial and ultimately pronounce him innocent or guilt. South Africa does not conduct trial by jury. Court documents show that more than 100 witnesses will be called to the stand to give evidence.
Oscar was originally granted bail in February, and in March a judge changed his conditions allowing him to travel abroad providing he hands over his travel plans.
The double amputee has resumed some low-key training as a way to help him “process the trauma”, according to his family.
A statement posted on his website in June, said, “Oscar is not contemplating a formal return to athletics and his training is not aimed at preparing for competition.
“His focus at this time remains entirely on the court case. His family, and those close to him, have encouraged him to spend a few hours a week on the track to assist him in finding the necessary mental and emotional equilibrium to process the trauma and prepare for the trial.”
Meanwhile, Reeva’s heartbroken parents have said they are still searching for answers. In a TV interview in June, her mother said of that fateful night, “There is only one person who knows what happened”.
Reeva’s uncle has said he has already forgiven Oscar for taking her life. Mike Steenkamp has said the family have coped with her death by concentrating on the life she led.
In an interview with ITV’s Daybreak, he said, “I think from the beginning and onset that we decided that could never be sidetracked from Reeva’s life, and I think that’s helped us tremendously.
“I just think of Reeva’s life, How happy she was, and what she actually meant to the family. Not only to her own parents, but to her cousins and myself and my wife. She was an exceptional person.”