Oscar Pistorius: From Olympic fame to murder appeal

Lawyers for Oscar Pistorius, the South African amputee sprinter who shot dead his girlfriend, were back in court on Tuesday fighting prosecutors’ attempts to have him convicted for murder rather than culpable homicide. Here is a timeline of important events.

February 14: South African police arrest Pistorius, a Paralympic and Olympic sprinter nicknamed the “Blade Runner”, for killing model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, who was shot four times with one of the guns at his Pretoria house. 

February 15: Pistorius bursts into tears as he is charged, denying murder “in the strongest terms”.

February 19: Pistorius claims in an affidavit that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and feared that someone had crept into his home. He fired through a locked bathroom door in what prosecutors term a “premeditated” murder.

February 20: Police searching Pistorius’s home find testosterone and needles in a dresser in his bedroom. Testosterone is on the list of substances banned by the International Olympic Committee. Pistorius’s lawyers poke holes in the prosecution’s murder case, challenging flawed police work.

February 22: Pistorius is granted bail. 

March 11: Pistorius is in deep mourning, but is “certainly not suicidal,” his family says.

Madelene Cronje, M&G

February 14: As he marks one year since the shooting, Pistorius says he is consumed with “sorrow” in an online message.

February 25: A judge rules that most of Pistorius’s trial can be broadcast live, but not his testimony.

March 3: The trial opens in Pretoria, before an army of journalists from around the world, with the testimony of a neighbour who tells the court she heard “terrible screams” from a woman.

March 13: Pistorius vomits when a picture of the dead model’s body is flashed on the court’s television screens.

April 7-15: Pistorius takes the witness stand and begins with a tearful apology to Steenkamp’s family. This is followed by five days of often intense cross-examination, marked by several bouts of tears and breaks in the session. Pistorius steadfastly denies any intention to kill Steenkamp.

June 30: After a six-week break, a panel of three psychiatrists and a psychologist conclude that Pistorius is not suffering from mental illness.

September 12: Pistorius is found guilty of culpable homicide or manslaughter, but is cleared of murder.

October 21: Judge Thokozile Masipa sentences Pistorius to a maximum of five years in jail. He is immediately taken to Pretoria prison.

November 4: Prosecutors describe the sentence as “shockingly light and inappropriate” in appeal papers.

December 10: The judge grants prosecutors leave to appeal against the conviction for culpable homicide rather than murder.

Mujahid Safodien, AFP

June 8: Prison authorities say Pistorius is scheduled to be released to house arrest on August 21.

August 19: The justice ministry puts the house arrest decision on hold saying it had “no legal basis”.

October 19: Pistorius is allowed out of jail on house arrest one day ahead of the re-scheduled release date, in an apparent bid to avoid media attention.

November 3: Supreme Court of Appeal reserves judgement on state prosecutors’ attempt to have him convicted for murder. – AFP

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