Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Reuters

Outside Pretoria's High Court, the media circus has already arrived as TV crews pitch their vans ahead of one of the most high-profile court cases in South Africa's recent history.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, the blade-running paralympic gold medallist, will tomorrow face judge Thokozile Matilda Masipab, accused of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, model, TV presenter and presenter and reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013.

Ahead of the trial, Pistorius's family appealed for speculation about the athlete's character to cease.

His uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said: "With less than two days before the start of Oscar's criminal trial, the family as well as the legal team will not be distracted by extraneous issues that have no bearing on, or relevance to, the legal process that must now be allowed to unfold."

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday before the trial, Steenkamp's mother June said that she will attend the trial, coming face to face with Pistorius for the first time since the death of her daughter.

"I want to look at Oscar, really look him in the eyes, and see for myself the truth about what he did to Reeva," she said. "And whatever the court decides at the end of his trial, I will be ready to forgive him. But first I want to force him to look at me, Reeva's mother, and see the pain and anguish he has inflicted on me. I feel I need that."

Pistorius claims that on the night of the killing he got up to fetch a fan from the balcony in the early hours, and heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder had broken in, he said he fetched a 9mm pistol from under his bed then ran to the bathroom without his prosthetic legs on and fired four shots through the door.

When he realised his mistake, he said he broke the door down with a cricket bat, and dragged Streenkamp's body downstairs where he called for help.

With the trial broadcast live on South African TV, the media is expected to pick over every detail of the evidence presented, with the prosecution case expected to hinge on three main points.

• Prosecutors will seek to contradict the version of events Pistorius presented at his bail hearing last year, with forensics evidence showing the angle the bullets took, the distance Pistorius was from the door, and from the autopsy all likely to be used.
• Phone records, text messages and witnesses are likely to be used to suggest the couple argued the night of the killing, contradicting Pistorius's account that they had spent a romantic evening together.
• Witnesses, including ex-girlfriends and acquaintances, are also expected to testify that Pistorius had an unstable temperamant and was quick to anger.

Judge Masipa is likely to come under intense scrutiny in South Africa, where not just the reputation of one of its most celebrated athletes, but its entire justice system is under the spotlight.