UK & World News

  • 3 March 2014, 6:30

Oscar Pistorius' Murder Trial Due To Begin

Oscar Pistorius' highly-anticipated murder trial starts in South Africa today, just over a year after he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day.

In a landmark ruling, large parts of the case will be broadcast live by three remote-controlled cameras in court, but testimony given by Pistorius can not be shown.

The South African judge who made the decision said he had weighed up arguments for a fair trial from the Pistorius camp with principles of open justice and freedom of expression.

Sky correspondent Emma Hurd, outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, said: "South African media has dubbed it 'the trial of the century' and there is also a huge amount of interest across the world.

"Satellite trucks are parked all along the streets and there are police on every street corner to hold back the crowds."

The trial, which will hear from more than 100 witnesses, is scheduled to run for three weeks but could go on for longer, Hurd says.

The South African legal system does not have trials by a jury, so a judge will preside over proceedings and ultimately pronounce Pistorius innocent or guilty.

The 27-year-old double amputee faces charges of murder, illegal possession of ammunition and two additional counts relating to shooting a gun in public in two separate incidents before shooting Ms Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria.

He stands accused of fatally shooting the 29-year-old model and reality TV star four times through a toilet door intentionally following a jealous row and then lying extensively about it.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius a man "willing and ready to fire and kill" as the state charged him with premeditated murder.

Pistorius acknowledges he killed Ms Steenkamp but denies murder and says he shot her after mistaking her for an intruder.

Pistorius says he was terrified at the mistaken belief that there was a dangerous intruder in his home about to hurt him and the woman he loved dearly - but he had to intervene.

"I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself," Pistorius says in an 11-page affidavit. He says she died in his arms.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, the Paralympic and Olympic athlete could be jailed for at least 25 years.

A toilet door, a 9mm gun, bullet trajectories, an iPhone and prosthetic legs are just some of pieces of the Pistorius puzzle that are expected to be scrutinised during the trial.

Forensic ballistics expert JC De Klerk told Sky News that based on the ballistic and blood spatter reports, prosecutors should be able to determine the order of the shots and the location of Mr Steenkamp in the toilet.

"We don't know was it a through and through bullet shot wound? At this stage we know that its entry, but we don't have exits, that's what we heard," he said.

"But that is evidence that needs to be heard in court and only after that can we determine and give us an idea or a picture of what actually happened."

A murderer, a flawed hero, or someone caught in the middle, afraid but also too quick to fire are all options for Judge Thokozile Masipa when she decides which role Pistorius played that night and whether she convicts on murder, acquits, or finds Pistorius guilty of a lesser offence of negligent killing.

:: Sky News will have live coverage of the trial from today, with a special highlights programme every weekday at 9.30pm.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.