All eyes on Oscar trial

2014-02-27 16:10
Oscar Pistorius (Alexander Joe, AFP)

Oscar Pistorius (Alexander Joe, AFP)

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Johannesburg - The world will be watching on Monday as Oscar Pistorius - once South Africa's golden boy - goes on trial for the murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

All eyes will turn to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria as the double amputee Paralympic athlete faces charges of premeditated murder and contravening the Firearms Control Act, in a trial that will be broadcast live on television and radio.

Steenkamp was shot dead in a toilet in Pistorius's Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year. At his bail hearing, Pistorius's lawyer submitted he thought he was shooting an intruder.

The case has had people talking world-wide with interest from both news and sports growing for the true story of the fallen hero and his beautiful blonde companion.

Said author Antony Altbeker: "The interest is largely because it is a human interest story. He is an amazing guy and an amazing athlete but his life and career has come to this horrible moment.

"Personally, I am surprised at how big this story is but we have never had a celebrity murder trial of this magnitude before. There is no other explanation, it's not a story that is particularly unusual or interesting."

After his arrest, Pistorius was granted R1m bail on 22 February, last year, and the case was moved from the magistrate's court to the high court.

Altbeker said in this particular case, the essentials had already been made public.

"We know Oscar killed Reeva. The question is, what was going on in his mind at the time of the shooting?" Altbeker said.

"There are facts that could decisively show his version is not true, but it is a legal question. The question is - did he do what he did with the intention to kill?"

High profile case

Altbeker said the case could not be compared to other big murder trials, such as the OJ Simpson trial in the US 1995 and the Fred van der Vyver trial in 2007, because Simpson and Van der Vyver denied killing anyone.

"We [the South African law fraternity] are going to be under intense scrutiny. This is our chance to show that we are a normal developing country," he said.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it was ready for the trial.

"We are ready - the prosecution team already met with all the witnesses," spokesperson Nathi Mncube said.

"They have been in various consultations and we are ready to proceed."

Witnesses knew what to expect and they had been prepared.

The initial indictment lists 107 witnesses to testify for the State.

Among them are Pistorius's sister Aimee, his uncle Arnold, former police investigator Hilton Botha, and residents of the Silver Woods Country Estate in Pretoria, where he lived.

Pistorius's former girlfriends, and two people from Melrose Arch in Johannesburg where Pistorius allegedly accidentally fired a gun in a busy restaurant in January 2012, are among them. He narrowly missed a friend's foot.

Former soccer player Mark Bachelor, who said after an argument with the Paralympian that Pistorius threatened to break his legs, was also on the list.

However, Mncube said the list of witnesses could change because there was a revised indictment.

"The indictment - with the additional charges - would only be on the public record once it is read in court," he explained.

New Twitter account

A week before the "Blade Runner", was set to appear in court for the trial, until 20 March, his media management team set up a Twitter account called @OscarHardTruth.

"This platform, along with the website, will become the key outlet for information," spokesperson Anneliese Burgess said on Monday.

The account was linked to Pistorius's official website and the first tweet was sent out on 23 February at 20:06.

Burgess said the account was intended to be for fact sharing and would be linked to certain media coverage to deal with issues which needed clarifying during the trial.

The first tweet read: "As the trial approaches, many untruths, half-truths and versions of the truth have [been] and shall be spread across the world."

Another read: "We will address the truth and expose those with ulterior motives. The Truth will Prevail."

The NPA has denied leaking documents on Pistorius's murder trial.

The documents reportedly said prosecutor Gerrie Nel would present five witnesses who heard screams which were "as described in the documents" extinguished at the same time as the gunshots.

Another weekend report suggested Pistorius was surfing pornography websites on the night before the murder.

Many people have made up their minds on what happened, but it is for the law to decide the athlete's fate.

Read more on:    npa  |  oscar pistorius  |  reeva steenkamp  |  media  |  pistorius trial
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