Oscar Pistorius South Africa murder trial set for March

The trial has grabbed the attention of the public and the media, reports the BBC's Will Ross from Pretoria

A date has been set for the trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius for the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at a hearing at Pretoria magistrates' court.

The prosecutor in the case said the dates of 3 to 20 March had been mutually agreed for the trial.

The prosecution handed a copy of the indictment to Mr Pistorius.

Mr Pistorius denies murdering Ms Steenkamp. He says he shot her after mistaking her for an intruder.

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Oscar Pistorius looked much more composed in court than previous occasions. He mouthed the words "not well" when I asked him how he was feeling”

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He was granted bail in February and has since resumed some low-key training.

During Monday's brief hearing, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he planned to transfer the case to the high court: "We have prepared the indictment."

Oscar Pistorius looked stern-faced as he appeared in court, says the BBC's Andrew Harding at the hearing. Before proceedings started, he could be seen crying and holding hands with his siblings.

Mr Pistorius was also indicted on a charge of illegal possession of ammunition.

The double amputee won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and also competed at the Olympics.

His arrest in February stunned many South Africans who saw him as a national sporting hero after his long legal battle to be able to take part in the Olympics.

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Ballistic evidence

State prosecutors are arguing that the killing was premeditated, a charge which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. They say he killed Ms Steenkamp intentionally after a fight.

But Mr Pistorius says he shot his girlfriend through the bathroom door of his home in Pretoria after mistaking her for a burglar.

The prosecution handed over details of its case against Mr Pistorius at Monday's hearing, including a witness list and forensic reports.

Much depends on ballistic evidence from the bathroom where Ms Steenkamp was shot, our correspondent says.

Oscar Pistorius and  Reeva Steenkamp Reeva Steenkamp, 29, was shot dead in the early hours of Valentine's Day

South African newspapers have reported that at least some of that forensic evidence appears to back up Mr Pistorius's version of events, he continues.

Clickable 3D model of his house

Pistorius home, graphic

However, the prosecution is expected to call witnesses who will say the Olympic runner was preoccupied with guns, and had been arguing with his girlfriend.

Last week, the police wrapped up their six-month investigation into Ms Steenkamp's killing.

"The South African Police Service is hopeful that justice will prevail," a statement from the office of South Africa's national police commissioner read.

Mr Pistorius returned to court on what would have been Reeva Steenkamp's 30th birthday.

In June, Oscar Pistorius resumed "low-key" training as a way to help him "process the trauma", a statement on his website read.

Mr Pistorius was freed on a bail of R1million (£74,000; $110,000). A court in March eased his travel restrictions, allowing him to leave South Africa to compete as long as he complied with certain conditions.

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