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Oscar Pistorius Found Not Guilty Of Murder Of Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

11/09/2014 11:30 BST | Updated 11/09/2014 13:59 BST

Oscar Pistorius sobbed today as he was found not guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The Paralympian has been cleared of second-degree murder and the judge said there are not enough facts to prove the athlete carried out premeditated murder saying the evidence is “purely circumstantial”.

More than 18 months after he shot dead his model girlfriend at his luxury home on Valentine's Day 2013, the sportsman known as the Blade Runner wept Thursday as the judge delivered her verdict in one of the most closely followed trials of recent times.

But the athlete will have to wait until tomorrow to learn if he is to be fully cleared over the death of Steenkamp as the court was adjourned shortly after lunchtime.

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Oscar Pistorious weeps in court

Steenkamp's parents were also in the packed gallery, while members of Pistorius' family, including his father Henke, sat behind him.

The court will resume shortly when the judge will deliver her verdict on the charge of culpable homicide - the South African equivalent of manslaughter - along with other firearms offences.

If Pistorius is convicted on any charge, including those involving firearms, the case will likely be postponed until a later sentencing hearing.

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Reeva Steenkamp's parents, Barry Steenkamp and June Steenkamp

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Oscar Pistorius in the Pretoria High Court

Judge Thokozile Masipa, 66, told the court today that the state had not provided enough facts to prove the Paralympian carried out premeditated murder at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, after a 41-day trial that started March 3.

"The State has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder. There are just not enough facts to support such a finding," she said.

"The accused believed his life was in danger. The accused cannot be found guilty of murder."

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Judge Thokozile Masipa reads her verdict

But she added that the athlete was "not truthful" when asked about his intentions when he armed himself, branding him a "very poor" and "evasive witness" who failed to listen to questions, appearing "more worried about the impact of answers" rather than “emotional distress” of reliving the incident.

Pistorius could still face a conviction for culpable homicide or, he could be acquitted if Masipa decides he acted reasonably out of fear that an intruder was going to attack him.

Pistorius faced one count of murder, two of illegally discharging a firearm - unrelated to the death of Steenkamp - and one of illegally possessing ammunition. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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Pistorius stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend

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In a trial that has gripped the world, Pistorius was known as a sporting superstar, while Steenkamp was a top model and law graduate. The pair had quickly established themselves as the Posh and Becks of South Africa.

But in one night, Pistorius was transformed from a global sporting icon to murder suspect after he killed Steenkamp by firing four hollow-point bullets through a toilet cubicle door in a bathroom at his Pretoria home.

Steenkamp, 29, suffered fatal injuries after she was hit in the head, arm and hip in a tragic end to a budding romance.

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Pistorius and Steenkamp in November 2012, three months before her death

Interest in the subsequent case was intense, and a ruling that parts of the trial could be broadcast live on television added to the scrutiny.

While the prosecution led by Gerrie Nel - nicknamed The Bulldog for his courtroom tenacity - maintained that Pistorius planned to kill Steenkamp after an argument, the defence - headed by Barry Roux - argued the athlete mistook her for an intruder, and her death was a “huge, unfortunate mistake.”

But Nel painted an entirely different picture of Pistorius - a "deceitful witness", the athlete "dropped the baton of truth" and told a "snowball of lies," he said during proceedings.

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Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel

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Oscar Pistorius's lawyer Barry Roux

Oscar Pistorius from Day One in court

PHOTOS: Oscar Pistorius Trial

Nel sought to depict the star as having a short fuse and being obsessed with guns, calling a former girlfriend who told the trial that the defendant once shot his gun out of the sunroof of a car.

His defence team, presented a case that portrayed him as anxious about crime and claimed evidence at the crime scene was mishandled.

Court proceedings opened in March with a witness describing how she heard "bloodcurdling screams" on the night of the shooting.

Michelle Burger, who lived on a complex close to the Silverwoods Estate gated community where Pistorius's home was located, said she was woken by the screams. "It leaves you cold," she told the court.

Some 21 witnesses testified for the prosecution and 16 for the defence. But Judge Masipa also found discrepancies between the recollections of witnesses and phone records, and told the court she would be relying on the latter when making her decision.

Pistorius's reactions as the case against him was set out ranged from crying during evidence about texts they exchanged and vomiting at a description of her injuries to calmly taking notes and talking to his lawyers.

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Pistorius sits in the dock during closing arguments

In June, after the trial was halted for a month, experts concluded that Pistorius was not suffering from mental illness at the time of the shooting.

The trial's tensest and most dramatic moments came in several days of highly charged testimony from Pistorius. His voice thick with emotion, the athlete began his evidence by saying sorry to Steenkamp's family.

Watched by the model's mother June, he said: "I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved."