Oscar Pistorius Formally Charged With Murder Amid Media Frenzy

AFP/Getty Images

The start of the trial of the South African Paralympic star, who said he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by mistake, was confirmed for March 3.

LONDON – A court in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday formally charged Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius with premeditated murder and confirmed that his trial would start in early March.

The 26-year-old double amputee, whose nickname is Blade Runner, earlier this year admitted that he shot and killed his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his house on Valentine's Day. But he has said he believed she was an intruder. He was granted bail in February.

Prosecutors said the shooting happened after a fight between Pistorius and Steenkamp, who would have turned 30 on Monday, and was premeditated. If convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius faces a life sentence.

"Some of the state witnesses heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots," ITV in the U.K. reported the judge as reading from a court statement on Monday. Pistorius was seen crying and holding hands with his siblings before the hearing, it said.

Pistorius' murder trial will start on March 3 and is expected to run through later that month, the court also confirmed on Monday.

The case has drawn frenzied media coverage in South Africa. On Monday, TV footage in the U.K. showed the sprinter walking into the courtroom as he faced a flurry of flashing cameras. South African media interest has been compared to that during the U.S. trial of O.J. Simpson.

Pistorius won a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and also previously competed at the Olympics.

Pistorius' life story and the shooting of Steenkamp were covered in a BBC documentary entitled Oscar Pistorius – What Really Happened?, which aired in the U.K. in March. Discovery Communications' TLC aired it in the U.S.

E-Mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai