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Oscar Pistorius Arrives In Court Ahead of Verdict

11/09/2014 09:04 BST | Updated 11/09/2014 11:59 BST

Ready to hear his fate, Oscar Pistorius has arrived in court on the day the judge in his murder trial begins delivering her verdict.

The double-amputee Olympian was forced to wade through throngs of press and photographers at the entrance to the court building in Pretoria, South Africa, more than six months after the trial began.

Supported by members of his family, including brother Carl who was recently injured in a road accident, the decorated athlete faces a lengthy jail term if convicted of murder by Judge Thokozile Masipa.

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It is more than 18 months since Pistorius shot dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his luxury home on Valentine's Day 2013. The sportsman known as the Blade Runner will finally learn his fate as the judge delivers her verdict in one of the most closely followed trials of recent times.

The courtroom, expected to include members of Ms Steenkamp's family, will convene for the final time today to see the culmination of a case that heard from scores of witnesses and captivated a global audience with dramatic and heartbreaking scenes.

Pistorius Arrives In Court Ahead of Verdict

In deciding her verdict, judge Masipa will have to weigh Pistorius's claim that he shot Ms Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder, and the prosecution's allegation that the runner intentionally murdered her after a row.

She will determine the defendant's fate alone as South Africa does not have the trial by jury system.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, the 27-year-old faces 25 years to life in prison, while he could be convicted of a lesser murder charge or negligent killing. He is also charged with three firearms counts.

In one night Pistorius was transformed from a global sporting icon to murder suspect. A little more than six months before the shooting, he made history at London 2012 by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympic Games.

Then in the early hours of February 14 2013, the athlete - who had his lower legs amputated as a baby - fired his 9mm pistol through a closed toilet door at his home in Pretoria. Ms Steenkamp, 29, suffered fatal injuries after she was hit in the head, arm and hip.

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

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

The prosecution, led by Gerrie Nel - nicknamed The Bulldog for his courtroom tenacity - 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, headed by Barry Roux, presented a case that portrayed him as anxious about crime and claimed evidence at the scene was mishandled.

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.

Oscar Pistorius from Day One in court

Pistorius Arrives In Court Ahead of Verdict

The case involved physical as well as oral evidence, with one forensic analyst demonstrating in court how Pistorius may have hit the toilet door with a cricket bat.

Both sides used texts sent by the couple to support their case. In one read out by police captain Francois Moller, Ms Steenkamp said: "I'm scared of u sometimes and how u snap at me and of how u will react to me."

But the defence claimed such messages were only a fraction of the total taken from the couple's mobile phones by police, and produced others in which they were affectionate.

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 Ms Steenkamp's family.

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Pistorius Arrives In Court Ahead of Verdict

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." Mrs Steenkamp later told Hello! Magazine she has forgiven him.

Pistorius was on the stand for five days of intense cross-examination from Mr Nel. At one point he refused to look at a photograph of Ms Steenkamp's wounds as the prosecutor urged him to "take responsibility".

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.

In a tweet on August 8, Oscar Pistorius wrote: "Thank you to my loved ones and those that have been there for me, who have picked me up and helped me through everything."