Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius appeared in a South African court on Monday to be sentenced for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The 29-year-old, known as “Blade Runner” for the carbon-fibre prosthetic blades he used to race, faces a minimum 15-year jail sentence and cannot appeal after the country’s top court ruled in March that he had exhausted all his legal options.
The case has prompted a fierce debate in a country beset by high levels of violent crime. Some rights groups have said the white athlete got preferential treatment.
Pistorius, whose lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, initially received a five-year sentence for culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter. The conviction was later upgraded to murder after an appeal heard by the Supreme Court.
Original trial Judge Thokozile Masipa started hearing pre-sentencing arguments at the high court in Pretoria, with Pistorius expected to discover his fate by the end of the week.
The key dates in his journey from internationally renowned athlete to a man on trial for murder appear below:
- February 14 2013: News breaks around 8am on Valentine’s Day: Pistorius has shot and killed his girlfriend, claiming he mistook her for a robber. Police later confirm they have arrested Pistorius and recovered a 9mm pistol. By mid-morning, police confirm the woman shot dead is 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp. They say they will oppose bail when Pistorius appears in court.
- February 15: After spending the night behind bars, Pistorius appears in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court. Prosecutors announce they intend to pursue a charge of premeditated murder. His bail hearing is set for February 19.
- February 17: Pistorius’s agent, Peet van Zyl, says all future races Pistorius is contracted to compete in have been cancelled. “I have decided that following these tragic events that we have no option but to cancel all future races … to allow Oscar to concentrate on the upcoming legal proceedings,” he says at the time.
- February 19: Reeva Steenkamp’s funeral is held in Port Elizabeth. Pistorius appears in court on the first day of a bail hearing. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel says Pistorius fired four shots through a bathroom door, hitting Steenkamp three times. His defence says Pistorius thought Steenkamp was an intruder. Pistorius denies he deliberately shot Steenkamp.
- February 22: Magistrate Desmond Nair grants Pistorius R1-million bail. Conditions include that Pistorius surrender his passport and any weapons in his possession.
- February 28: Pistorius appears on the cover of the March issue of Time Magazine in the US, Asia, and the South Pacific. He is bare-chested, wearing shorts and his running blades. Printed over his picture are the words: “Man. Superman. Gunman.”
- March 11: Lawyers for Pistorius file an appeal against bail restrictions imposed on him.
- March 28: Pistorius’s bail restrictions are eased by the high court in Pretoria, allowing him to leave South Africa if he wants to compete internationally.
- August 19: The day on which Steenkamp would have turned 30, Pistorius appears in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court before magistrate Desmond Nair to have the state’s indictment served on him. He is charged with premeditated murder and violation of the Firearms Control Act. Accompanying the indictment is a list of more than 100 possible witnesses. The trial is set to take place in the high court in Pretoria from March 3 to 20.?
- February 14 2014: On the anniversary of Steenkamp’s death, Pistorius posts a tribute to her on his official website (oscarpistorius.com): “No words can adequately capture my feelings about the devastating accident that has caused such heartache for everyone who truly loved – and continues to love Reeva.”
- February 19: Media groups ask the high court for permission to broadcast Pistorius’s murder trial. Judge Dunstan Mlambo reserves judgment on the matter until February 25. The application to film the proceedings was brought by news channel eNCA. It was joined in the application by MultiChoice and EWN. A 24-hour TV channel dedicated to the upcoming trial will be launched on DStv on March 2, a day before Pistorius goes on trial.
- March 3: Trial starts in the high court in Pretoria.
- September 12 2014: High court Judge Thokozile Masipa convicts Pistorius of culpable homicide.
- October 21: Pistorius is sentenced to a maximum five-years in jail and begins his prison term.
- November 4: State prosecutors file an application for leave to appeal the conviction and sentence of the Paralympian.
- December 10 2014: Pistorius’s conviction appeal granted, though Masipa dismissed the sentencing appeal, saying she did not believe the sentence was “shockingly inappropriate”.
- March 13 2015: Pistorius loses bid to prevent state from appealing conviction. Judge says there was nothing new in the counsel’s submissions and it would be tantamount to reviewing her own decision.
- June 8: Department of correctional services announces the disgraced athlete will serve the remainder of his sentence for culpable homicide under correctional supervision.
- October 19: Blade Runner released from jail, set to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. He would reportedly stay at his uncle Arnold’s house in Pretoria.
- December 3: Supreme Court of Appeal finds Pistorius guilty of murder. Replacing Pistorius’s culpable homicide conviction with murder, Justice Eric Leach said: “He fired four shots through the door and he never offered an acceptable explanation… he fired not one, but four shots… that is exactly what the accused did.
“I have no doubt that in firing the fatal shots, the accused… did foresee that whoever was behind that toilet door might die.”
- January 11 2016: Pistorius files papers with the Constitutional Court in a bid to appeal his conviction. In the papers he claimed that the SCA discriminated against his “disability, vulnerability and anxiety”.
- March 3: Concourt dismisses Pistorius’s leave to appeal his murder conviction.
- June 13 – June 15: Pistorius returns to court for his sentencing hearing. The State and defence call witnesses to argue in mitigation or aggravation of the sentence. Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel wants Pistorius to get the minimum 15-year prison term for murder while Pistorius’s defence argue he should be spared any more prison time and given community service. Judge Masipa announces she will hand down sentencing on July 6.
- July 6: Judge Thokozile Masipa sentences Pistorius to six years in jail.