By Ed Cropley
The murder trail of Oscar Pistorius was adjourned on Friday until April 7, when the South African Paralympic and Olympic track star is expected to take the stand in his own defence in a high-stakes bid to prove his innocence and avoid life in prison.
Judge Thokozile Masipa postponed proceedings for more than a week due to the illness of one of the legal assistants who has been sitting at her side throughout the trial, one of the most high-profile in South African history.
Prosecutors took 15 days to lay out their case against the 27-year-old, arguing he deliberately killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year by firing four rounds from a 9 mm pistol through a closed toilet door.
Several neighbours testified to hearing a woman’s terrified screams before a volley of shots, counteringPistorius’ assertions that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder hiding in the toilet cubicle in the middle of the night.
If found guilty of murder, Pistorius faces at least 25 years in prison.
The trial has gripped South Africa and millions of athletics fans around the world who saw Pistorius as a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.
The sprinter’s lower legs were amputated as a baby but he went on to achieve global fame as the “fastest man on no legs,” winning gold medals at the Beijing and London Paralympics.
He also won a battle against athletics authorities for the right to compete against able-bodied men, becoming the first amputee runner at an Olympics when he reached the 400 metres semi-finals in London 2012.