'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

Pretoria

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  

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her