Following is some background information on some of the key players in the murder trial of Paralympic and Olympic star Oscar Pistorius:

ARNOLD PISTORIUS

Pistorius' uncle Arnold has taken the role of family spokesman since the arrest of his nephew, who has been staying at Arnold's mansion in a wealthy Pretoria neighborhood since his release on bail.

The track star is estranged from his father, Henke, who last year told a newspaper he and other family members owned a total of 55 guns because they could not count on the police to protect them from crime. Pistorius' mother died when he was 15.

JUNE STEENKAMP

Reeva Steenkamp's mother June will be at the start of the trial on March 3, although she will be without her horse-trainer husband, Barry, who is recovering from a stroke at the family's home in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.

The family has been devastated by Reeva's death, with June telling a South African paper this month: "It is bad. Bad, bad, bad and nothing that is done will change that. Under the circumstances we are not okay. We are not all right. Nothing will make us alright."

THOKOZILE MASIPA

A former newspaper crime reporter who later became a lawyer, Masipa was only the second black woman to be appointed a high court judge in South Africa.

She has a track record of handing down stiff penalties in crimes against women and has given life terms to rapists.

She reduced one convicted rapist and robber to tears in court, handing him three life sentences for three rapes and an additional 27 years for charges of robbery and attempted murder.

BARRY ROUX

Lead defense attorney Barry Roux is regarded as one of South Africa's most skilled - and expensive - criminal lawyers, with a reputation for ruthless cross-examination and a flair for theatrics.

At last year's bail hearing, Roux dismantled Hilton Botha, the lead detective on the case, forcing him to concede that Pistorius' version of the events was plausible, while relentlessly accusing him of shoddy detective work.

Botha was later pulled off the case after it emerged he himself faced attempted murder charges.

GERRIE NEL

Lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel is a veteran lawyer known for his intense preparation and ability to take on the powerful and politically connected. His biggest scalp is former police chief and Interpol head Jackie Selebi, who was convicted of corruption in 2010.

At the bail hearing a year ago, Nel painstakingly crafted a picture of Pistorius as a cold-blooded killer who fired through a door at his cowering girlfriend. "She could go nowhere," he sid. "It must have been horrific."

-Reuters