'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius formally charged and trial date is set over 'planned murder' of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Paralympian prays in court as trial is set for March


Sharp-suited but sombre-faced, a visibly emotional Oscar Pistorius walked into Pretoria magistrates courtroom C, bowed his head in the dock and prayed.

On what would have been his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp’s 30th birthday, Mr Pistorius was formally indicted for her murder. The charge comes months after the Paralympian gold medallist shot Ms Steenkamp to death with his 9mm pistol through a bathroom door on Valentine’s Day morning.

Turning his back to the bank of snapping camera shutters, the “Blade Runner” – as he was known, due to the prosthetic legs he wears – grasped the hands of his brother Carl and sister Aimee, closing his eyes to the packed public gallery.

The magistrate, Desmond Nair, asked the athlete if he was well. “Under the circumstances,” Mr Pistorius replied.

The state prosecutor Gerrie Nel announced the “mutually agreed” trial date as 3 March 2014. The indictment specifies two charges: “planned or premeditated” murder, and the illegal possession of ammunition. It describes how prosecution witnesses “heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and more screaming”. Mr Pistorius has admitted shooting his girlfriend, saying he believed Ms Steenkamp to be an intruder.

Speaking to a small group of journalists outside, a National Prosecuting Authority spokesman, Medupe Simasiku, said the trial period could be extended, but they were hoping to avoid any further delays.

“The police did a very sterling job, within these few months having a full case ready for court,” he said, “We are getting ready. We need to make sure that everything is in place.”

Mr Simasiku says they will not necessarily call all the witnesses identified on the hefty list accompanying the indictment to testify. The 107 names notably include Pistorius’ ex-girlfriends Melissa Rom and Samantha Taylor, Ms Steenkamp’s ex-boyfriend Warren Lahoud, the former lead investigator Hilton Botha, Pistorius’s firearms trainer, and some of the model’s closest friends.

One witness who might take the stand, Ms Steenkamp’s housemate and best friend Gina Myers, attended the hearing, sitting across the aisle from the Pistorius siblings, huddled with her family for support amid her tears. The Myers family, with whom Ms Steenkamp lived while pursuing her modelling career in Johannesburg, made an emotional statement outside the courtroom.

“Now more than ever, her memory lives on for her friends who cannot forget the lasting effect she had on everyone she met,” their lawyer and spokesman Ian Levett read.

Steenkamp family members gathered in her small hometown of Port Elizabeth to celebrate what would have been a milestone birthday.

Mr Pistorius’s bail conditions remain unchanged, so he will be able to compete abroad until the trial.

South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius (R), flanked by his sister Aimee (L) and his brother Carl, appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria on 19 August, 2013. Pistorius appeared on charges of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day  

Oscar Pistorius with Reeva Steenkamp Oscar Pistorius with Reeva Steenkamp  

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album