OSCAR Pistorius will stand trial for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp next March, a South African court has heard.
Pistorius appeared at Pretoria Magistrates’ Court yesterday – the day Ms Steenkamp would have turned 30 – and a finalised indictment was served.
At the brief high-profile hearing, the court heard the six-time Paralympic sprint champion will stand trial from 3 to 20 March at North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Magistrate Desmond Nair granted Pistorius bail on the same conditions set at a hearing earlier this year.
The Paralympian is accused of the premeditated murder of Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s night, but claims he shot the 29-year-old after mistaking her for an intruder.
If convicted, he faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years.
Pistorius was visibly emotional as he stood in court ahead of the hearing, and was supported by relatives including brother Carl and sister Aimee, with whom he held hands ahead of the start of the hearing, appearing to pray.
Friends of Ms Steenkamp were also in court.
Her parents previously said they are still searching for answers but yesterday her uncle Mike Steenkamp said he has already forgiven Pistorius for killing her.
In an interview on ITV’s Daybreak, Mr Steenkamp said the family have coped with her death by concentrating on her life rather than on how she died.
He said the family have not faced the Paralympic champion in court but would want to know the outcome of the case.
“We haven’t attended anything and we haven’t actually applied our minds to the court case or Oscar’s side,” he said.
“I know my brother and his wife would like to know at the end of the day why, quite rightly so. And I think that will come out.”
Pistorius’s hearing lasted just ten minutes and no mention was made of extra charges relating to allegations of recklessly discharging a firearm – relating to two separate incidents – which were reported to have been added to the indictment.
The double-amputee, known as the “Blade Runner”, will remain on bail until his trial next year.
He is said to have resumed a “low-key track routine”, according to his family, who said in a statement in June: “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 his trauma and prepare for the trial.”
The athlete was “overcome with emotion” when he pulled on his carbon fibre running blades for his first track training since Ms Steenkamp’s death, his agent, Peet van Zyl, said, adding that Pistorius described his return to the track as “bittersweet”.
Ms Steenkamp’s family and close friends are reportedly gathering to celebrate her birthday today in Port Elizabeth, the seaside town where she grew up.
The indictment accuses Pistorius of murder and unlawful possession of ammunition.