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State wants life sentence for Pistorius

The athlete's case has been transferred to the North Gauteng High Court for trial next March.

Oscar Pistorius during his murder case in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on 19 August, 2013, Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp at his Pretoria East home on Valentine’s Day. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN

PRETORIA - State prosecutors will be seeking a mandatory minimum sentence of life behind bars for murder accused Oscar Pistorius when the matter goes to trial in March next year.

The athlete made a brief appearance in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Monday where his case was transferred to the North Gauteng High Court for trial next March.

The state formally served its indictment on Pistorius, which contained the same charges put to him during his bail application - premeditated murder and illegal possession of ammunition.

Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria East home on Valentine's Day.

While he claims the shooting was an accident by saying he believed his girlfriend was an intruder hiding in the bathroom, the state alleges it was murder.

It appears the prosecution will rely on witness statements that screams were heard coming from Pistorius's house before and after several gunshots rang out.

The state will also argue that even if his version is believed, by firing four gunshots blindly through the locked toilet cubicle door, he certainly had intent to kill the person behind it.

The state has listed 107 witnesses in its case against Pistorius.

An ex-girlfriend, a former footballer and even Pistorius's closest relatives are among the witnesses listed in the indictment. (See the full witness list & indictment here.)

His sister Aimee, who was among the first people on the crime scene, and former soccer star Mark Batchelor, who's alleged to have been in an altercation with the athlete, are listed as witnesses.

Dozens of police officers, forensic and ballistic experts as well as staff and residents of the Silverwood Estate are also on the list.

Meanwhile, Pistorius's family says they are relieved a date has been set so they can now prepare for the trial.

The blade runner's family has supported him since news of the shooting emerged and has given the impression of a strong, tight unit.

The athlete's legal team will also spend the next six months preparing. His lawyers have been given the police docket and will be looking at forensics, ballistics and pathology reports.

The defence will also finalise their own list of witnesses which is likely to include experts in these fields.

The three-week trial gets underway on 3 March 2014.

'STRONGEST POSSIBLE SENTENCE'

Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana says she wants to see the courts dish out the strongest possible sentence against Pistorius to ensure he doesn't flee justice.

Xingwana was at court proceedings on Monday saying she was there to represent the Steenkamp family.

"We are here on their behalf. They have said that they would like to hear the truth."

She spoke strongly about her hopes for the case against Pistorius.

"We are saying to the courts: we want to see the toughest sentences and we also want to make sure that the accused does not run away, that they finally face justice."

She also said the provincial government in the family's home province of the Eastern Cape has visited them to offer support.

For more on this story, click here.