Pistorius family 'shaken' by leaked murder scene images

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - The family of Oscar Pistorius says it is "shaken" by the leaked graphic photos of the blood-spattered bathroom where the world-renowned athlete shot dead his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

Images of the crime scene appeared in the media last week, just days before the double amputee's court appearance on Tuesday for a brief pre-trial hearing.

"We were shaken by the graphic images, leaked into the public domain..., of the accident scene at Oscar's house," Arnold Pistorius, who speaks on behalf of the family, said in a statement dated Monday.

On Friday, Britain's Sky News television released leaked images showing the bloodied bathroom of Pistorius's luxury Pretoria home where he shot his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp three times in the early hours of February 14.

The 26-year-old "Blade Runner" claims he shot Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door in the middle of the night after mistaking her for an intruder.

But the prosecution argues it was premeditated murder, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Pistorius is due back in court on Tuesday for the first time since a judge released him on bail after the Paralympian was charged with Steenkamp's murder.

Pistorius has assembled some of country's best legal brains for his defence and Tuesday's hearing is expected to be swiftly adjourned while police pursue their investigation.

His family said: "it has always been our plea that the legal process be allowed to run its course with integrity." "The leaking of evidential material into the public domain, before the court case, does not advance this process."

Pistorius's lawyers have complained to prosecutors about the leaked pictures, which show bloodstains on the toilet seat and surrounding floor and the door marked with two bullet holes just below the handle.

But police said they did not know the source of the photos but that the leak would not jeopardise their case.

Pistorius, who became an inspiration to millions as the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympics last year, is currently out on bail of one million rand.

The family said despite the leaking of the pictures, it continues to have "great faith" in the country's legal justice system and "believe that Oscar's account of what happened on that terrible night in February will be borne out by the evidence that the defence team will lead in court."

A trial date is yet to be set, but the state hopes to finalise its case by August. But given the huge backlog of murder cases in one of the world's most dangerous countries, the trial may not start for some time.