Oscar Pistorius' defence team will wrap up their closing
arguments in the murder trial of the South African Olympic and
Paralympic athlete on Friday, after which the judge will retire
to consider her verdict.
Double amputee Pistorius, 27, once a national icon for
reaching the pinnacle of sport, is accused of murdering his
law graduate and model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home
in Pretoria on Valentine's Day last year.
Since the trial opened in early March, state prosecutor
Gerrie Nel has portrayed Pistorius as a gun-obsessed hothead
who deliberately shot 29-year-old Steenkamp four times
through a locked toilet door where she was taking refuge
after a heated argument.
The defence says Pistorius, nicknamed the 'blade runner'
after his hi-tech prosthetics, was a vulnerable and caring
boyfriend who killed Steenkamp by accident after mistaking
her for an intruder hiding behind the door.
Nel on Thursday said Pistorius had told "a snowball of lies"
and called on Judge Thokozile Masipa to convict the track
star of intentional murder, a crime which could land him with
a life sentence. A potential lesser charge of culpable
homicide could carry a sentence of 15 years.
Lead defence attorney Barry Roux began his closing statement
by accusing the state of deliberately avoiding calling
witnesses whose evidence would have damaged their case.
He will conclude his final arguments on Friday, after which
judge Masipa, who has more than 4,000 pages of evidence to
review, will retire to consider her verdict.
There is no jury, and so the verdict hinges on whether
Masipa, only the second black woman to be appointed a high
court judge, believes Pistorius' version of events.
Steenkamp's dramatic death has shattered the image of
Pistorius as an embodiment of triumph over adversity for both
his Paralympic victories and his success against able-bodied
athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.