PRETORIA, South Africa – Witnesses heard a woman screaming before gunshots fired by Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, South African prosecutors said Monday, contradicting the Paralympic champion’s version of events as he was indicted on a charge of premeditated murder.
Pistorius, who was in court for the indictment and wept before proceedings began, also will face a charge of illegal possession of ammunition when he goes on trial March 3 in the South African capital, Pretoria.
The much-awaited indictment in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court yielded new detail about how prosecutors will pursue a case that has gripped the world because of the celebrity status of sprinter Pistorius, who overcame the loss of both his legs as a child to become a global phenomenon and Olympian. His girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality-TV show star, would have celebrated her 30th birthday Monday.
Pistorius, 26, has said he thought Steenkamp was in bed and he shouted at her to call the police, believing there was a dangerous intruder in his bathroom, and that he didn’t know she was in the toilet cubicle when he fired through its door four times. He has said he shouted at her to call the police, but not that she screamed.
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The prosecution will attempt to show the couple argued before she was killed as part of its case Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp.
Possibly covering their bases, prosecutors also said in the indictment papers Pistorius shot “with the intention to kill a person,” and even if the trial judge believes Pistorius didn’t know it was Steenkamp in the locked toilet cubicle when he fired through its door, they said he was still guilty of murder.
“Some of the state witnesses heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and then more screaming,” the prosecution said in the 11-page indictment.
The court set March 3 to March 20 as the trial period. Prosecutors submitted a list of 107 witnesses, including Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold; sister, Aimee; and brother, Carl, as well as a number of people who lived in the same gated community where Steenkamp was killed.
If convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius could face a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison before parole.
There is no death penalty in South Africa. A conviction of murder without premeditation can bring up to a 15-year prison sentence.