, PRETORIA, August 7- South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius returned to the dock Thursday for the finale to his gripping murder trial as lawyers present closing arguments in a case that has captured the world’s attention.
State lawyer Gerrie Nel kicked off a two day showdown between the country’s top legal minds, insisting Pistorius deliberately murdered his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013 and declaring him a “deceitful witness”.
Pistorius, a double amputee star sprinter known as the “Blade Runner”, has denied the charge in the months long trial in which he has at times sat weeping and vomiting in the dock as grisly details of Steenkamp’s death were presented to the judge.
His legal team — led by top defence lawyer Barry Roux — has sought to convince Judge Thokozile Masipa that the 27 year old Pistorius shot his girlfriend by accident, believing her to be an intruder.
The defence has sought to portray Pistorius as a “highly vulnerable individual” obsessed with safety — a result of a difficult childhood and his disability — in a country with a sky-high crime rate.
During the trial Pistorius underwent psychiatric evaluation and a ensuing report said he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, but was not suffering any mental illness that could prevent him being held criminally responsible for his actions.
– ‘Devoid of any truth’ –
The athlete appeared at Pretoria High Court for the start of closing arguments wearing glasses and a dark suit, clenching his jaw as Nel accused him of concocting an alibi to avoid justice.
“It is the state’s case the accused was a deceitful witness,” said Nel, describing Pistorius’s testimony was “absolutely devoid of any truth.”
He said there are “glaring contradictions” in the Paralympic gold medallist’s story.
Initially, Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp by mistake through a toilet door in his upmarket Pretoria home, believing her to be an intruder.
However under intense cross examination, he said he accidentally shot his girlfriend as a result of deep-seated anxiety caused by his disability and did not mean to kill anyone.
Nel also said Pistorius had anxiety “on call”, suggesting the runner manufactured a fear of crime to suit his version.
Legal analysts watching the case say the runner, once revered for his triumph over disability, did damage to his case by appearing to offer two different defences.
Nearly 40 witnesses ranging from a jilted ex girlfriend of Pistorius to a forensic geologist testified, creating a hefty record with thousands of pages.
Such was the intensity of the public gaze that some witnesses, including Pistorius, refused to testify in front of cameras, while according to defence lawyers, some refused to testify at all.
Thursday saw Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father, and Henke Pistorius, Oscar’s father, make their first appearances in court as the five-month long and emotion filled trial reaches its finale.
The court fell silent as Barry entered court and Henke hugged his daughter Aimee before taking a seat in the first row of the public gallery behind his son.
Pistorius faces a minimum of 25 years in jail if he is convicted of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend.
He also faces three separate gun charges.
Even if he is not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could still be convicted and jailed on alternative charges of murder or culpable homicide.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux is expected to give his concluding arguments on Friday.
Pistorius, a gold medallist Paralympian, rose to international fame when he competed alongside able-bodied runners at the 2012 London Olympics.
Once a poster boy for disabled sport, he has been stripped of his lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competitions.
Once concluding arguments are finished, Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to adjourn the case for a couple of weeks before delivering her verdict.