Pretoria — Oscar Pistorius pleaded not guilty to murder on Monday as his sensational trial got under way 90 minutes after officials tried to locate an Afrikaans interpreter at the last minute.
But the late start was also due to another bid by a woman who also disrupted the Paralympian’s bail hearing to bring an application to the North Gauteng High Court.
The mysterious woman, who gave her name only as Anna-Marie and claimed she knew Pistorius’s late mother, was led out of the building just before 11 am.
Court officials then explained they had also managed to resolve logistical problems related to translation services for the trial –reportedly because one of the witnesses wanted to testify in Afrikaans.
Proceedings in the Pretoria court finally began at 11.30 am, with prosecutor Gerrie Nel formally bringing a charge of premeditated murder.
Asked to plead, Pistorius, 27, responded: “Not guilty.”
The prosecutor and a team of senior detectives will set out to prove in coming weeks that Pistorius deliberately shot and killed his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp while she cowered behind a locked toilet door in his home on Valentine’s Day last year.
Nel proceeded to read further charges relating to contravention of the firearms act, some relating to a now infamous incident in a restaurant in Melrose Arch months before Steenkamp’s death.
Asked by Judge Thokozile Masipa how he pleaded, Pistorius to each count responded: “Not guilty, my lady.”
The athlete’s attorney, Kenny Oldwage, then read Pistorius’s version of events to the court.
As expected, he submitted that he had mistakenly believed there was an intruder in his house.
“Reeva must have gone to a toilet, [and] closed the sliding doors,” Oldwage read to the court.
“I approached the bathroom to defend Reeva and I.”
“There was “no basis whatsoever” for the State’s contention that he had wanted to kill Steenkamp, Pistorius’s statement continued.
It disputed the State’s argument that there had been a row between the couple on the night of the shooting, and denied that Pistorius wore his prosthesis when he fired four shots into the locked door.
Pistorius, dressed in a black suit and tie, arrived at the red-brick court house in Pretoria early in the morning, carrying a pen and notebook and a small green pillow to sit on in the dock.
His family and Steenkamp’s mother June — who sat in the front seats of the court room, some distance from each other.
Also in court was police investigating officer Vineshkumar Moonoo –assinged to the case after a faltering start for the police last year –and detective Captain Mike van Aardt.
The proceedings in the wood-panelled courtroom will be broadcast live on television and radio, with the initial indictment listing 107 witnesses to testify for the State.
More than 300 reporters have vied for space in the court room and a scrum of local and foreign photographers have set up watch outside the court.