Oscar Pistorius back in court on ex-girlfriend's birth date

Oscar Pictorius in court in February Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Today would have been Reeva Steenkamp’s thirtieth birthday. But while her parents pray for her in private, her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, will return to court where the date for his murder trial will be set.

The brief hearing will be procedural, but it marks an important moment in the legal process. Lawyers acting for Pistorius will be handed an indictment outlining details of the case against him. Then, with the police investigation now complete, preparations for his murder trial, probably next March, will enter a new phase.

Pistorius' former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp Credit: REUTERS/Capacity Relations/Handout

Prosecution and defence teams are gathering information from witnesses and refining their explanations of what they believe happened in the hours and weeks before that tragic moment on Valentine’s Day morning.

There are many details upon which both sides agree, but one significant quarrel may soon be settled: the question of whether Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic legs when he fired through his bathroom door.

His lawyers claimed that he was on his stumps when he pulled the trigger – they say he had acted quickly because he had been stunned by what he thought to be an intruder. The prosecution had argued that Pistorius had attached his prosthetic legs, inferring that he had enough time to realise that his girlfriend was not in bed with him.

Police tape outside Oscar Pistorius' upmarket home where Reeva died Credit: REUTERS/Andrea Ettwein

However, according to reports in South Africa, ballistic tests on the angle at which the shots were fired support Pistorius’ claim. This may be an important development for his lawyers as they attempt to dismantle the argument that the killing was "premeditated".

Nevertheless, when the trial begins, state lawyers will portray Pistorius as a trigger happy cowboy with a history of violence. They will also argue that Pistorius must have known that it was Ms Steenkamp locked in his bathroom - any reasonable man would have realised, they are likely to say.

Pistorius’ team may well argue that the so-called 'Blade Runner' was in this sense no ‘reasonable man’. They are likely to explore his state of mind, presenting the court with a description of a fragile, vulnerable athlete.

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