Oscar Pistorius trial: Key players
Published on Mar 2, 2014 8:54 PM
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius stands in a Pretoria dock on Monday to face a charge of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Here are the key players in the trial that will open the decisive chapter in the story of the rise and fall of one of the world’s most recognisable athletes.
THE ACCUSED: Oscar Pistorius
Pistorius, 27, is accused of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 29, at his luxury home in Pretoria, South Africa, on Valentine's Day, 2013.
He had been dating Ms Steenkamp for several months when he killed her with gunshots fired through the bathroom door.
He claims he mistook her for an intruder. The prosecution says it was cold-blooded murder. If found guilty, Pistorius could face at least 25 years in jail.
THE VICTIM: Reeva Steenkamp
Born in Cape Town, Ms Steenkamp was a law student-turned-model.
She described herself in her Twitter biography as "SA Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island of Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God."
Shortly before her death, she had filmed reality TV series Tropika Island of Treasure in Jamaica.
THE JUDGE: Thokozile Masipa
A former newspaper crime reporter who later became a lawyer at 43, Ms Masipa was only the second black woman to be appointed a high court judge in South Africa.
She has a track record of handing down stiff penalties in crimes against women and has given life terms to rapists.
In the 2009 case against Freddy Mashamba, a police officer who shot and killed his former wife after a row over their divorce settlement, Ms Masipa said: "No one is above the law. You deserve to go to jail for life because you are not a protector. You are a killer.”
In the case of Shepherd Moyo, a serial rapist and burglar who was sentenced to 252 years, she said: “The worst in my view is that he attacked and raped the victims in the sanctity of their own homes where they thought they were safe."
Pistorius' fate rests soley in Ms Masipa’s hands as there will be no jury. Trial by jury was abolished in South Africa under apartheid in 1969.
THE PROSECUTOR: Gerrie Nel
Lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel is a veteran lawyer known for his intense preparation and ability to take on the powerful and politically connected.
His biggest scalp is former police chief and Interpol head Jackie Selebi, who was convicted of corruption in 2010.
"Everything he (Nel) touches turns to gold," Mr Mthunzi Mhaga, a former national prosecuting authority spokesman, told South African media.
At the bail hearing a year ago, Mr Nel painstakingly crafted a picture of Pistorius as a cold-blooded killer who fired through a door at his cowering girlfriend. “She could go nowhere,” he said. “It must have been horrific.”
THE DEFENCE: Barry Roux
Lead defence attorney Barry Roux is regarded as one of South Africa’s most skilled – and expensive – criminal lawyers, with a reputation for ruthless cross-examination and a flair for theatrics.
At last year’s bail hearing, he dismantled the testimony of Mr Hilton Botha, the lead detective on the case, forcing him to concede that Pistorius’ version of the events was plausible, while relentlessly accusing him of shoddy detective work.
Botha was later pulled off the case after it emerged that he himself faced attempted murder charges.
It is speculated that Mr Roux could be earning around 50,000 rand (S$5,877) a day.
THE UNCLE: Arnold Pistorius
Pistorius’ uncle Arnold has taken the role of family spokesman since the arrest of his nephew, who has been staying at Arnold’s mansion in a wealthy Pretoria neighbourhood since his release on bail.
The track star is estranged from his father Henke, who last year told a newspaper he and other family members owned a total of 55 guns because they could not count on the police to protect them from crime.
Pistorius’ mother died when he was 15.
THE MOTHER: June Steenkamp
Ms Reeva Steenkamp’s mother June will be at the start of the trial on March 3, although she will be without her horse-trainer husband Barry, who is recovering from a stroke at the family’s home in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.
The family has been devastated by Ms Steenkamp’s death, with the mother telling a South African paper this month: “It is bad. Bad, bad, bad and nothing that is done will change that. Under the circumstances we are not okay. We are not all right. Nothing will make us alright.”