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    Dec 04, 2015

    Pistorius guilty of murdering girlfriend, rules S. African court


    OSCAR Pistorius was convicted of murder yesterday by South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal, which threw out his earlier conviction on a lesser charge for shooting dead his girlfriend in 2013.

    Pistorius is now set to go back to jail after he was released on parole in October, after serving one year of his five-year sentence for culpable homicide - the equivalent of manslaughter.

    He was not present in court in Bloemfontein, South Africa's judicial capital, and now faces at least 15 years in prison for murder.

    "Guilty of murder, with the accused having criminal intent," Judge Eric Leach told the court in a dramatic legal reversal, after an appeal was put in by state prosecutors. "The matter is referred back to the trial court to consider an appropriate sentence."

    The 29-year-old star Paralympic sprinter shot dead Reeva Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, in the early hours of Valentine's Day two years ago.

    He said during his trial that he mistook her for an intruder when he opened fire at the locked door of his bedroom toilet.

    "He did not know whether that person constituted any threat," Judge Leach said in a damning rejection of the testimony from Pistorius and the original trial judge's ruling.

    "It is inconceivable that a rational person thought he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy-duty firearm," said Judge Leach, who described Pistorius's testimony as "vacillating and untruthful".

    "He must have foreseen that the person behind the door might be injured. He ought to have been convicted not of culpable homicide... but of culpable murder."

    Awaiting his new sentence, Pistorius is likely to remain under house arrest at his uncle's mansion in the capital Pretoria.

    His trial attracted worldwide attention as he denied killing Ms Steenkamp in a rage after the couple had gone to bed. Pistorius killed her at the peak of his fame, following his historic performance in London in 2012 when he became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level.

    Last month, he made his first appearance in public since leaving jail when he reported for community service at a police station in Pretoria.

    Ms Steenkamp's father said yesterday in a television interview that he felt a sense of "relief" after Pistorius was found guilty of murdering his daughter. He later broke down in tears.

    Pistorius may make his own appeal to South Africa's Constitutional Court - the country's highest court.

    But defence lawyers say he cannot afford further legal battles, having already paid huge bills.

    While murder carries a minimum 15 year jail sentence, the BBC said a judge has "the discretion to lower it".

    And Pistorius could serve just three years in jail, The Telegraph reported. A Pretoria High Court source said: "As he has been convicted, he can even get 10 years and eventually only serve 30 per cent, so three years."