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Pistorius to be charged with murder

Oscar Pistorius will be charged with premeditated murder on Monday and the double-amputee Olympian will go on trial in early 2014, about a year after shooting dead his girlfriend, prosecutors said. In a sombre twist, Pistorius will be indicted on the day the woman he killed, Reeva Steenkamp, would have celebrated her 30th birthday.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku said on Friday that the exact date for the trial had not yet been set and would likely be decided on Monday, Pistorius' next scheduled appearance in court.

The indictment papers will be served at Pretoria Magistrate's Court and the prosecution will retain a main charge of premeditated murder, Mr Simasiku said. Pistorius faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted on that charge.

Pistorius was initially charged with premeditated murder for Miss Steenkamp's death for bail purposes while police investigated the circumstances of the Valentine's Day shooting. Police said this week they had completed their six-month investigation and are convinced Pistorius "had a charge to answer to," leading to the indictment.

Additional charges are "possible," said Mr Simasiku. He declined to comment on South African media reports that charges relating to Pistorius allegedly discharging a firearm recklessly in two other incidents would be added to the indictment.

Prosecutors said in a statement that it would be "inappropriate" to comment about "the charges" before they were made public on Monday. The language of the statement, using the plural charges, suggested that more could be added.

Pistorius denies murder and says he shot Miss Steenkamp by mistake in the early hours of February 14 because he thought she was a nighttime intruder in his bathroom in his villa in a gated community in the South African capital, Pretoria.

Anneliese Burgess, Pistorius' spokeswoman, said the athlete's defence team also wouldn't be commenting on the charge or charges but they expect to see a copy of the indictment and related papers before Monday's court proceedings so they can prepare.

Those papers are also expected to include a witness list and detail some of the evidence police have gathered in the six months since Pistorius fired four bullets from his licensed 9mm gun through a locked toilet cubicle door in his bathroom, hitting his girlfriend three times and killing her.

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