Pistorius thanks supporters ahead of start of murder trial

Star’s family calls for end to commentary as he prepares to face Steenkamp’s mother

An Australian TV journalist reports from outside  North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday ahead of today’s opening of Oscar Pistorius’s  trial for murder. Photograph:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

An Australian TV journalist reports from outside North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday ahead of today’s opening of Oscar Pistorius’s trial for murder. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 01:00

As Oscar Pistorius was yesterday preparing for his murder trial, which starts today, he sent a message of thanks to those who have supported him in the year since he shot his girlfriend dead.

He stands accused of murdering Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year at his luxury home in Pretoria. Mr Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp four times as she stood in the bedroom’s en suite toilet.

The 27-year-old star of the Olympic and Paralympic games claims it was a case of mistaken identity, and that in fact he was trying to protect both of them from an intruder he believed had gained entry to house through an open window in the bathroom.

The case has received an enormous amount of media attention, and Mr Pistorius has been criticised by many members of the public for opening fire with his handgun at an unidentified person behind a closed door.


Support
However, he has also received support from some South Africans in the run-up to the trial, which is likely to last between three and six weeks at North Gauteng High Court.

On the eve of the trial Mr Pistorius took time to post a message on his Facebook profile in which he thanked those who had backed him, as well as the team running his social network accounts.

“Thank you for the continued support and words of encouragement during this difficult time,” the post read.

On Saturday Mr Pistorius’s family issued a statement in which they reiterated their support for him, but they also called for an end to “public commentary” on his murder trial.

“With less than two days before the start of Oscar’s criminal trial, the family as well as the legal team will not be distracted by extraneous issues that have no bearing on, or relevance to, the legal process that must now be allowed to unfold,” his uncle Arnold Pistorius said.

“We will not be commenting on any media reports, nor will we be engaging the press on any issues that belong in court. The time for public commentary is over. The focus is now entirely on a very serious trial . . . We love Oscar, and believe in him, and will be standing by him.”


Emotional
The opening of today’s trial is likely to be a very emotional affair, as Mr Pistorius will come face-to-face with Ms Steenkamp’s mother June for the first time in front of dozens of journalists. Mr Pistorius faces a possible life sentence if convicted of premeditated murder.

Meanwhile, South African police who went to the US last week to ask Apple technicians to recover encrypted content from one of Mr Pistorius’s iPhones have retrieved crucial information from the device.

The three senior officers were able to retrieve text and WhatsApp messages from the phone, South Africa’s Sunday Times reported yesterday.