Thursday 12 December 2019

Day of reckoning for Oscar Pistorius: Timeline of trial as verdict due tomorrow

Oscar Pistorius in the Pretoria High Court on August 8, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Oscar Pistorius stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. (Photo by Herman Verwey-Pool/Foto24/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
Oscar Pistorius in the Pretoria High Court on August 8, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Oscar Pistorius stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. (Photo by Herman Verwey-Pool/Foto24/Gallo Image/Getty Images)

More than six months have now elapsed since decorated athlete Oscar Pistorius denied murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at a court in Pretoria, South Africa.

After several interruptions and adjournments, Judge Thokozile Masipa is preparing to deliver her verdict. Here is a timeline of events inside the court room:

March 3 - Oscar Pistorius pleads not guilty in court to murder and three gun charges. Later, neighbour Michelle Burger, the first witness called by the prosecution, tells the court she heard ''blood-curdling'' screams before the sound of four gunshots on the night the Olympian killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

March 5 - Prosecutor Gerrie Nel says neighbour Charl Johnson received texts and calls after his telephone number was read out in court the previous day. He described one voicemail message as saying: ''Why are you lying in court? You know Oscar didn't kill Reeva. It's not cool.''

March 10 - Pistorius vomits repeatedly in the dock as he hears graphic details of the injuries sustained by the girlfriend he fatally shot.

March 11 - A witness describes how a "furious" Pistorius fired a gun out of a car sunroof after being pulled over by police for speeding.

March 12 - Part of the crime scene is reconstructed in court as a forensic analyst demonstrates how Pistorius may have bashed a cricket bat on the door of his toilet to get to the girlfriend he had just fatally shot.

March 13 - Photographs of Pistorius' bloodstained prosthetics, the alleged murder weapon and of the crime scene are shown.

March 17 - The manager of a South African gun training academy says the athlete had ''a great love and enthusiasm'' for firearms.

March 19 - A police ballistics expert claims Ms Steenkamp was standing in a toilet cubicle and facing the closed door when she was hit in the right hip by the first of four bullets fired by Pistorius.

March 24 - Text messages between Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp are read to the court. In them she states she was sometimes scared of him and complained about what she described as his short temper and jealousy in the weeks before he killed her.

March 25 - The following day, defence lawyer Barry Roux notes that the messages were a tiny fraction of roughly 1,700 that police Captain Francois Moller, a mobile phone expert, extracted from the couples' devices. Later that day, and in a rare comment, Pistorius says he is going through ''a tough time" as the prosecution case closes.

March 28 - Judge Masipa delays proceedings until April 7 due to illness.

April 7 - The defence case opens. In a break from tradition, owing to illness, a pathologist is called as its first witness rather than the defendant. When he takes to the stand later, an emotional Pistorius begins with an apology to Ms Steenkamp's family. He says: "There hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about your family."

April 8 - Pistorius breaks down in tears and howls while describing how he shot girlfriend Ms Steenkamp, forcing the court to adjourn.

April 9 - Giving evidence for a third day, Pistorius tells how his girlfriend "died while I was holding her", describing how he put his fingers in her mouth to try to help her breathe and put his hand on her hip to try to stop bleeding from one of several gunshot wounds.

April 9 - Mr Nel begins cross-examination, showing a photograph of Ms Steenkamp's bloodied head. He tells the defendant: "It's time that you look at it."

April 11 - Pistorius's first week giving evidence ends with a dramatic exchange between Pistorius and Mr Nel about the moments before the shots were fired.

April 14 - There is another adjournment in court as the Olympian breaks down again while giving evidence.

April 15 - Re-examined by his own counsel, Pistorius recalls how he was "terrified" that the person in the bathroom was an intruder. "I feared for my life. I was just scared," he says. ''I was thinking about what could happen to me, to Reeva. I was just extremely fearful.''

April 16 - Judge Masipa announces the trial will adjourn until May 5, following a request for a break from Mr Nel.

May 5 - Upon resumption, Pistorius's neighbour, Johan Stander, describes how he received an urgent call to help following the incident. He says: ''He (Pistorius) said on the call, 'Johan, please, please, please come to my house. Please. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please come quick'."

May 8 - A social worker who visited Pistorius in the aftermath of the killing describes the murder suspect as "heartbroken". Yvette van Schalkwyk, who says she decided to give evidence at the trial because she was upset by suggestions reported in the media that Pistorius was feigning grief to sway the judge in his favour, adds: "He cried 80% of the time. He talked to me about what they planned for the future, his future with her."

May 9 - A ballistics expert says his analysis of the scene where the Olympic athlete shot Ms Steenkamp differs from the reconstruction of the shooting by police investigators.

May 12 - Mr Nel says the athlete should be placed under psychiatric observation after an expert called by the defence said Pistorius has an anxiety disorder.

May 14 - The much-delayed trial receives another set back, as the judge orders the athlete to undergo psychiatric tests. The case is delayed until until June 30 while he is observed as an outpatient at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital.

May 26 - Pistorius arrives at the hospital for the first day of psychiatric tests.

June 30 - After a month-long break, the murder trial resumes when mental health experts state Pistorius was not suffering from a mental illness when he killed girlfriend Ms Steenkamp.

July 2 - Mr Roux reads a psychologist's report which concludes Pistorius is severely traumatised and will become an increasing suicide risk unless he continues to get mental health care.

July 7 - Mr Nel challenges the credibility of a doctor who testifies that the athlete has an anxious nature linked to his disability.

July 8 - The defence team closes its case and the trial is adjourned.

August 7 - After a lengthy adjournment, closing arguments begin.

August 8 - Judge Masipa announces she will deliver her verdict on September 11.

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