Oscar Pistorius found guilty of girlfriend's murder

pistorius-guitly (File) Oscar Pistorius | Reuters

Appeals court overturns a lower court verdict that convicted him of a lesser crime of culpable homicide

  • Oscar Pistorius said during his trial last year that he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder when he opened fire at the locked door of his bedroom toilet.

South African appeals court on Thursday changed Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius's culpable homicide conviction to a higher crime of murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

“Guilty of murder, with the accused having criminal intent,” judge Eric Leach told the court in a dramatic legal reversal.

“The matter is referred back to the trial court to consider an appropriate sentence.”

The 29-year-old star Paralympic sprinter shot dead Reeva Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, in the early hours of Valentine's Day in 2013. He said during his trial last year that he mistook her for an intruder when he opened fire at the locked door of his bedroom toilet.

He was released from prison on parole in October after serving one year of his five-year sentence for culpable homicide.

“He did not know whether that person constituted any threat,” Leach said in a damning rejection of the testimony from Pistorius and the original trial judge's ruling.

“It is inconceivable that a rational person thought he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy-duty firearm," said Leach, who described Pistorius's testimony as "vacillating and untruthful”.

"He must have foreseen that the person behind the door might be injured.

"He ought to have been convicted not of culpable homicide on that count but of culpable murder."

Here is a snapshot of the events:

Feb 14, 2013: South African police arrest Pistorius, a Paralympic and Olympic sprinter nicknamed the "Blade Runner", for killing model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, who was shot four times with one of the guns at his Pretoria house.

Feb 15: Pistorius bursts into tears as he is charged, denying murder "in the strongest terms".

Feb 19: Pistorius claims in an affidavit that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and feared that someone had crept into his home. He fired through a locked bathroom door in what prosecutors term a "premeditated" murder.

Feb 20: Police searching Pistorius's home find testosterone and needles in a dresser in his bedroom. Testosterone is on the list of substances banned by the International Olympic Committee. Pistorius's lawyers poke holes in the prosecution's murder case, challenging flawed police work.

Feb 22: Pistorius is granted bail.

March 11: Pistorius is in deep mourning, but is "certainly not suicidal," his family says.

Feb 14, 2014: A year after the shooting, Pistorius says he is still consumed with "sorrow" in an online message.

Feb 25: A judge rules that most of his trial can be broadcast live, but not his testimony.

March 3: The trial opens in Pretoria before an army of journalists from around the world, with the testimony of a neighbour who tells the court she heard "terrible screams" from a woman.

March 13: Pistorius vomits when a picture of the dead model's body is flashed on the court's television screens.

April 7-15: Pistorius takes the witness stand and begins with a tearful apology to Steenkamp's family. This is followed by five days of often intense cross-examination, marked by bouts of tears and breaks in the session. Pistorius steadfastly denies any intention to kill Steenkamp.

June 30: After a six-week break, a panel of three psychiatrists and a psychologist conclude that Pistorius does not suffer from mental illness.

Sept 12: Pistorius is found guilty of culpable homicide or manslaughter, but is initially cleared of murder.

Oct 21: Judge Thokozile Masipa sentences Pistorius to a maximum of five years in jail. The athlete is immediately taken to Pretoria prison.

Nov 4: Prosecutors describe the sentence as "shockingly light and inappropriate" in appeal papers.

Dec 10: The judge grants prosecutors leave to appeal against the conviction for culpable homicide rather than murder.

Oct 19, 2015: Pistorius is allowed out of prison -- just one year into his five-year jail term -- to spend the remainder of his sentence under house arrest at his uncle's mansion in Pretoria. He is let out a day ahead of his release date in an apparent bid to avoid media attention.

Nov 3: The Supreme Court of Appeal reserves judgement on state prosecutors' attempt to have him convicted for murder.

Nov 14: Pistorius reports for his first day of community service in Pretoria.

Dec 3: The Supreme Court of Appeal finds him guilty of murder

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