PRETORIA: Olympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius arrived at a Pretoria court for the opening day of his murder trial on Monday, coming face-to-face for the first time with the mother of the girlfriend he shot dead.
Pistorius, 27, looked nervous as he entered the North Gauteng High Court dressed in a black suit and tie, facing the prosect of a life sentence if found guilty.
The star athlete known as the “Blade Runner” is accused of murdering glamorous law graduate Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
Inside the wood-clad court–room, the victim’s mother June, clad in black, looked on.
“I want to look at Oscar, really look him in the eyes, and see for myself the truth about what he did to Reeva,” she told the British Daily Mail in an interview published on Sunday.
Further down on the wood-panelled bench, Pistorius’s brother Carl, sister Aimee and a handful other relatives sat awaiting the beginning of proceedings, which are expected to take three weeks.
The families did not interact.
The prosecution argues that the double amputee knowingly killed Steenkamp, while the defense will say he believed he was shooting an intruder.
Lawyers for both sides will lay out their opening arguments before Judge Thokozile Masipa in a case that has already been likened to the OJ Simpson murder trial in the US.
The state will seek to prove that Pistorius killed Steenkamp in a rage after the couple quarrelled in the early hours of February 14, 2013.
Prosecutors are expected to rely on the testimony of neighbors who claim to have heard shouting from the house as well as phone records that might indicate strife between the two.
They are also expected to claim that Pistorius had watched porn just before the shooting, apparently contradicting his account of events.
The athlete, who became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics at the London 2012 Games, will also be asked why he allegedly told security guards at his luxury estate that everything was fine when they phoned after hearing gunshots.
In a bid to illustrate a history of reckless behavior with firearms, the state claims that Pistorius on two occasions fired a pistol in public, once through the sunroof of a moving car and months later at a busy restaurant in Johannesburg.
He is also charged with posses–sing unlicensed ammunition.
Police investigators travelled to the United States to seek help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and computer giant Apple to access information on Pistorius’s iPhone.