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Saturday 20 September 2014

Pistorius trial goes on two-week break

Member of prosecution team has to attend to another case

Published 16/04/2014 | 09:34

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Oscar Pistorius, left, arrives with an unidentified relative as he acknowledges a supporter outside the high court in Pretoria, South Africa. AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

The judge in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has ruled that proceedings will adjourn for more than two weeks after tomorrow and resume on May 5.

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Judge Thokozile Masipa said today that she was responding to a request for a break from the chief prosecutor, which was supported by the defence.

Pistorius's trial started on March 3 and Judge Masipa said the case had lasted longer than expected.

Chief defence lawyer Barry Roux has said he will call between 14 and 17 witnesses. Forensic expert Roger Dixon, the third witness called by the defence, was giving evidence today.

Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder for shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home last year.

He says he shot her by mistake, but the prosecution says he killed her intentionally after an argument.

The judge said she granted the break because a member of the prosecution team has to attend to another case.

Judge Masipa also noted that the court record for the Pistorius trial is now almost 2,000 pages long. The trial was initially scheduled to last just three weeks.

"At the time, it was not envisioned that this trial would run this long," Judge Masipa said.

She also noted that much of the evidence is "technical" and given by expert witnesses.

In his evidence, Mr Dixon, a former policeman, contradicted previous opinions given by a police expert and a pathologist on details of the wounds suffered by Ms Steenkamp when she was shot through the toilet door by the double-amputee athlete.

Police captain Christiaan Mangena said Ms Steenkamp was shot in the hip first, the second shot missed, and then the last two shots hit the model in the arm and head.

Mr Dixon disagreed with that order and said the first two shots hit Ms Steenkamp in the hip and arm in quick succession while she was close to the door, apparently backing Pistorius's version that he shot in quick succession fearing an intruder was coming out of the toilet cubicle to attack him.

Mr Dixon also said that Ms Steenkamp's right arm may have been stretched out towards the handle of the door, suggesting she may have been in the process of opening the door. The defence was using the evidence to try to cast doubt on the prosecution's case that Ms Steenkamp was hiding from Pistorius after a late-night fight and had locked herself in the cubicle to seek refuge.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned whether Mr Dixon was qualified to analyse the circumstances of Ms Steenkamp's death.

Press Association

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