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    Friday, March 28, 2014

    Pistorius trial: Defence case postponed

    The defence in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has been postponed until April 7 as one of the assessors assisting the judge has been taken ill.

    The athlete had been expected to take the stand on Friday.

    The trial, in the South African city of Pretoria, has already heard 15 days of prosecution-led testimony.

    Pistorius denies deliberately shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in February 2013, saying he mistook her for an intruder.

    Prosecutors allege that he killed her after an argument.

    Judge Thokozile Masipa announced that one of the assessors is ill and suggested the date of April 7 to resume the trial. The prosecution and defence teams agreed to the postponement.

    Under South African law, there is no jury system and two assessors help the judge reach a decision.

    The BBC’s Karen Allen in Pretoria says that, although Pistorius is not legally obliged to testify, he is the only witness to the alleged murder and is expected to testify when the trial restarts.

    His lawyers had previously told journalists that it was “likely” they would call him to give evidence first, she adds.

    Prosecution testimony has relied on accounts from neighbours and specialist ballistics, forensic and mobile phone evidence.

    Steenkamp, a model, reality TV celebrity and law graduate, was hit by four bullets while in the toilet cubicle of Pistorius’ home in Pretoria.

    People who were in the area on the night of the shooting have told the court they heard screams, shots and bangs.

    However, Pistorius has said he believed Steenkamp was in bed when he shot at the toilet door, thinking an intruder was about to attack them.

    Pistorius is a double amputee who holds six Paralympic medals and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

    If found guilty, the 27 year old – dubbed the “blade runner” because of the prosthetic limbs he wore to race – could face life imprisonment.

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