Oscar Pistorius pleads not guilty as murder trial starts in South Africa

Oscar Pistorius

In addition to the murder charge, Pistorius faces separate charges over two other gun-related incidents.

The murder trial of South African double-amputee Olympic sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, started on Monday, with large crowds gathering outside the Pretoria court to get a glimpse of the athlete.

Pistorius, once regarded as the country’s “golden boy” was charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot dead on February 14, 2013.

Pistorius, 27, who kept his eyes down as he was led into the dock was dressed in black with his sister Aimee, also wearing black.

The late girlfriend’s mother, June, was seated near Pistorius’ brother Carl.

It was the first time that June Steenkamp saw Pistorius, with whom she had only spoken on the phone while he was dating Reeva. She looked long at Pistorius who avoided her gaze.

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Reporters and photographers packed outside the courtroom, which can only accommodate 80 out of the more than 300 journalists who have descended on Pretoria.

Parts of the three-week trial will be televised live.

The first amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the 2012 London Olympics, Pistorius, was a hero in South Africa until he shot Steenkamp dead through the bathroom door in his up-market Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, while prosecution would argue he killed her intentionally after a quarrel.

More than 100 people have been called to witness at the world’s most high-profile trial involving an athlete since the case of OJ Simpson in the mid-1990s.

Witnesses would include former police investigator Hilton Botha, who initially led the inquiry into the case. Pistorius’ neighbours who say they heard the couple argue before shots were fired.

In addition to the murder charge, Pistorius faces separate charges over two other gun-related incidents, in which he allegedly fired a gun through the sunroof of a car and discharged a firearm under a table in a restaurant.

The trial would begin with Prosecutor Gerrie Nel reading out the charges against Pistorius, who was expected to plead not guilty.

He pleaded not guilty as the trial commenced.

There is no trial by jury in South Africa.

Thokozile Masipa, who became South Africa’s second black female judge in 1998, would decide whether Pistorius would come away with a mild sentence or spend his life in prison.

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