Parents’ shock at Pistorius verdict


Published: Saturday 13th September 2014 by The News Editor

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The parents of Reeva Steenkamp have said they are “shocked” and “disappointed” after athlete Oscar Pistorius was convicted of the manslaughter of their daughter but cleared of murder.

The double-amputee always admitted killing his 29-year-old girlfriend on Valentine’s Day in 2013 when he fired four shots through his toilet door.

But the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter insisted it was a tragic accident as he believed the person in his bathroom was an intruder.

Following a six-month trial which attracted worldwide attention, judge Thokozile Masipa convicted Pistorius of manslaughter – known in the South African judicial system as culpable homicide – but acquitted him of pre-meditated murder and second-degree murder.

The high court judge ruled the athlete acted “negligently” on the night he shot and killed law graduate-turned model Ms Steenkamp and he now faces a jail term.

Speaking to ITV News after the verdict, June and Barry Steenkamp said they did not “fully” believe Pistorius’s account of what happened the night their daughter was killed.

Asked how they felt as the ruling was delivered, Mrs Steenkamp said: “We were shocked. Shocked. Disappointed. You know your heart drops because you just want the truth. It’s going in the wrong direction, that’s how you feel.”

Mr Steenkamp said: “It’s a funny thing to say or a thing a person shouldn’t say, to see a man there with the status that he had, in the world, to see somebody standing there so pathetic.

“You actually feel deep down, you know, he could have been prevented. You actually feel sorry for him. I understand that he is sorry he’s done it and this and that.

“As I said, there is still something missing. I think there was more to the whole story, you know, coming up to the actual shooting, the killing.”

He added: “I only wish that the true, true story will come out one day.”

Mrs Steenkamp said she could not look at Pistorius inside the courtroom after the verdict as he and his supporters were “jubilant”.

Pistorius, nicknamed Blade Runner due to his prosthetic limbs, was released on bail until a sentencing hearing on October 13.

Delivering the verdict, judge Masipa told the hushed courtroom: “Having regard to the totality of this evidence in this matter, the unanimous decision of this court is the following: on count one, murder… the accused is found not guilty and is discharged.

“Instead he is found guilty of culpable homicide.”

Despite the conviction, the International Paralympic Committee said Pistorius, who made history by becoming the first double amputee to run in an Olympic Games, would be allowed to compete in future events.

Craig Spence, the body’s director of media and communications, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Oscar’s done a great deal for the Paralympic movement, he’s been an inspiration to millions, but obviously his priority now is to see what the judge decides.

“And then if he wishes to resume his athletics career then we wouldn’t step in his way, we would allow him to compete again in the future.”

Yesterday, on the first day of delivering her verdict, the judge criticised Pistorius for acting hastily when he shot Ms Steenkamp.

She said: “The accused had reasonable time to think, reflect and conduct himself.

“The accused knew there was a person behind the toilet door, he chose to use a firearm.

“I am of the view the accused acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent.”

Pistorius stood with his hands crossed to hear the final verdict but showed no emotion. The Olympian’s family embraced him during a break in proceedings.

Earlier he was cleared of two gun charges and convicted of a third.

The guilty verdict related to an incident at a restaurant where more than 200 people were present in January last year, although Pistorius denied he was the one to pull the trigger.

Pistorius was found not guilty of illegally possessing ammunition, and firing his weapon through a car sunroof.

Judge Masipa turned down an application by prosecutors to refuse bail, which claimed Pistorius was a flight risk. It means the 400m runner will continue to live with his uncle Arnold in Pretoria, his residence for the 18 months since the shooting.

After the hearing, Arnold Pistorius said the family were “grateful” to the judge for finding the sportsman not guilty of murder.

“That’s a big burden off our shoulders,” he said.

“We always knew the facts of the matter and we never had any doubt in Oscar’s version of this tragic incident.

“We as a family remain deeply affected by the devastating tragedy.”

The sentence for a culpable homicide conviction is at the judge’s discretion, although it can range from a suspended jail term and a fine, to up to 15 years in prison.

The shamed sportsman made no comment as he left the court building and was bundled into a waiting car.

He was accompanied by several security officers as hordes of journalists and members of the public clutching camera phones tried to catch a glimpse of the athlete.

Nathi Mncube, for the National Prosecuting Authority, said the body was “disappointed” Pistorius was convicted of only two charges.

Speaking outside the court, he said: “We respect the judgment that has been delivered.

“We believed in this instance there was enough evidence to secure a conviction under pre-meditated murder.

“Of course we are disappointed. We are disappointed we did not secure a conviction under pre-meditated murder and also there was acquittal on the other two (gun) charges.

“The matter has not been concluded yet, we are still waiting for a sentence to be imposed.”

He said it was too early to decide whether prosecutors would launch any appeal.

Interest in the trial was intense, and a ruling that parts of it could be broadcast live on television added to the scrutiny.

The prosecution, led by Gerrie Nel, sought to depict the star as having a short fuse and being obsessed with guns.

His defence team, headed by Barry Roux, presented a case that portrayed him as anxious about crime and claimed evidence at the crime scene was mishandled.

The trial opened on March 3 with a witness describing how she heard “bloodcurdling screams” on the night of the shooting.

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.

But the case was riddled with delays and adjournments, including a lengthy break in proceedings while Pistorius’s mental state was assessed.

Published: Saturday 13th September 2014 by The News Editor

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