Oscar Pistorius to return to court over murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius to return to court over murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
Johannesburg:  South Africa's murder-accused paralympic star Oscar Pistorius returns to court on Tuesday for a scheduled pre-trial hearing while detectives wrap up their investigations.

The case comes up just days after photographs of the blood-spattered murder scene emerged for the first time since he shot his model girlfriend at his upmarket Pretoria home in the early hours of February 14.

Defence lawyers and the prosecution have agreed the case will be postponed, but the date is to be set by the court.

The state wants a bit more time to wind up its investigations and hopes to finalise its case by August.

The 26-year-old double amputee known as "Blade Runner" for his trademark carbon fibre prosthetic limbs is charged with murdering Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day.

Pistorius, who is out on bail, will personally appear in court, according to one of his lawyers, Kenny Oldwage.

"The case is not likely to go ahead. We will have a postponement," said Oldwage said.

Pistorius claimed he shot Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door with a gun he kept under his bed after mistaking her for an intruder.

But the prosecution will try to prove pre-meditated murder, which carries a maximum life sentence.

The 29-year-old model had gunshot wounds to her head, elbow and hip.

Leaked images of the blood-spattered bathroom were first seen by the public on Friday.

British news channel Sky News published the graphic images showing a bloodied toilet seat and a pool of blood on the bathroom floor. The door bore two marked bullet holes.

The police, who deny knowledge of the source of the photographs, say their release will not jeopardise the case.

Pistorius, who has described the shooting as a "horrible accident", openly wept on his first day in court three months ago.

His lawyers will argue that the murder was not planned and seek a lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Extreme cases of culpable homicide, with proven negligence and recklessness in the killing, attract a maximum sentence of 15 years.

The athlete's arrest sent shock waves throughout the world and put his career to an abrupt halt. He lost lucrative advertising contracts with US sportswear maker Nike and French cosmetic firm Clarins, among others.

Pistorius' bail hearing in February was marked by a series of embarrassments for the state's case.

Investigating officer Hilton Botha, who attended to the murder scene, struggled to provide sufficient forensic evidence on the circumstances of the shooting.

He was later forced to retract crucial parts of the state's evidence and it later emerged that he himself was facing charges of attempted murder for shooting at a minibus in 2011.

Botha was dropped from the case and has since quit the police force. A top investigator with a senior rank of lieutenant general has been assigned to lead the investigation.

Pistorius's legal team has also cast doubt on key witnesses at the bail hearing, including a neighbour who claimed to have heard "non-stop fighting" from the house before the shooting.

Given the country's court system, choking with an immense backlog of murder cases, Pistorius's trial may not start for some time.

Pistorius has assembled some of the best legal brains in the country to defend him, headed by high-flying lawyer Barry Roux.

The athlete, who in London last year became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics, has cancelled his participation in upcoming competitions.

He is currently out on bail of a million rand ($98,000, 75,000 euros). A raft of stringent conditions that were initially imposed, including a travel ban and mandatory drug and alcohol tests, were relaxed by the High Court in March.

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