THE murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete, is expected to run until the middle of May, three times longer than had originally been planned.
The trial, which began in February, was expected to last three weeks but both prosecution and defence have agreed to an extension after only 18 witnesses out of a possible 107 have so far been heard. The trial has already overrun its initial time-frame with the prosecution not yet completing its case.
Pistorius denies intentionally shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he mistook her for an intruder and last week he said he would have to sell his home to fund legal costs.
The court in Guateng province said that the trial would continue until 4 April, then adjourn for one week before resuming until 16 May.
“All parties involved” had agreed to the dates, the court said. The trial will enter its fourth week today, with five more witnesses expected to be called by the prosecution. The court had been adjourned to allow the defence team to finish preparing its case with Pistorius himself expected to give evidence for the first time.
Meanwhile, a former state prosecutor, Marius du Toit, who has been monitoring the trial said yesterday that the prosecutors have successfully presented a “golden thread” of evidence suggesting Reeva Steenkamp screamed before she died, leaving the accused with “serious questions” to answer and his defence likely hinging on his own testimony.
Three neighbours say they heard a woman scream before and during the deadly gunshots coming from Pistorius’ home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Ms Steenkamp said it would have been “abnormal” for her not to scream from some of her injuries.
A police ballistics expert concluded that the first shot Pistorius fired through a toilet door hit Ms Steenkamp in the hip and caused her to collapse, but did not immediately kill her. The second shot missed. From the policeman’s testimony, Ms Steenkamp is likely to have had time to cry out before she was hit by two more shots.
Mr du Toit said: “Suddenly what we have is Oscar Pistorius firing at Reeva Steenkamp while her hands are covering her head while she’s screaming in the toilet, and that’s murder.”
Mr Du Toit, who is following the trial but not involved, said the prosecution had so far presented a specific line of evidence compellingly. Prosecutors say they will wrap up their case next week, the fourth week of the trial, by calling four or five more witnesses.