Pistorius must 'pay' for Steenkamp killing, tearful cousin says

Pistorius must 'pay' for Steenkamp killing, tearful cousin says

Thursday, October 16, 2014 3:59 pm

PRETORIA 2014 (AFP) – A cousin of slain South African model Reeva Steenkamp made a tearful plea Thursday for Oscar Pistorius “to pay” for killing her, as prosecutors sought at his sentencing hearing to see the Paralympic athlete sent to jail.

Battling tears and with her voice trembling, Kim Martin told the court in Pretoria that she was “very fearful” of the amputee sprinter and did not believe his apology for killing Steenkamp at his home last year was genuine.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius, before she was killed

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius, before she was killed

“Pistorius needs to pay for what he has done, for taking Reeva’s life, for what he’s done to my uncle, to my aunt and the rest of my family,” she said.

“My family are not people who are seeking revenge, we just feel that to take someone’s life, to shoot somebody behind a door, that is unarmed, that is harmless, needs sufficient punishment.

“Everybody has suffered here, and I really think we need to send a message to society that you can’t do this and get away with it.”

Pistorius was found guilty last month of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, for shooting 29-year-old Steenkamp dead on Valentine’s Day 2013. He was acquitted of the heavier charge of murder, to some controversy.

He is likely to receive his sentence Tuesday, according to a source close to the state. But with no mandatory minimum punishment, judge Thokozile Masipa will have to decide whether he deserves to go to jail or remain free.

Pistorius’s defence team has painted the “Blade Runner” as a “broken man”, wracked by guilt about accidentally shooting his lover four times with hollow point bullets, believing her to be a burglar.

They have argued the double amputee would be vulnerable in prison and should receive a community service instead.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has slammed that suggestion as “shockingly inappropriate”. He warned that “if the court sentence is too light, and society loses trust in the court, they will take the law into their own hands”.

The defence says a jail term would “break” the 27-year-old star sprinter — who inspired millions when he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in an Olympics — and that he could fall victim to prison violence, including rape.

“Without legs he will be vulnerable and a lot more vulnerable than the normal man,” said probation officer Annette Vergeer.

Pistorius: guilty of culpable homicide, gun charge

Pistorius: guilty of culpable homicide, gun charge

The state worked to cast doubt on Vergeer’s testimony, calling acting correctional services commissioner Zach Modise to testify that South African prisons are able to provide the specialized physical and psychological care Pistorius needs for his rehabilitation.

The commissioner said there are no better prisons in Africa than in South Africa, whose facilities compare “favourably” with those in Britain or the United States.

Modise said he can “confirm confidently” that if Pistorius were sent to prison he would not be abused or mistreated.

“We have facilities that will cater for his disability,” said Modise. “There should be no doubt in the minds of South Africans that Mr Pistorius or any other person with disabilities should be accommodated.”

– Reeva’s voice –

On Wednesday, Nel called Martin to the stand in a bid to shift the spotlight back on to the devastating impact of Pistorius’s killing of the model, saying Steenkamp’s death had “ruined” her family.

“I had to do this for Reeva, I owe it to her,” Martin said. He described Steenkamp as a thoughtful, caring young woman whose death felt like “the end of the world”.

She recalled Reeva was the first baby she ever held, and recounted a joyful shared childhood filled with horse-riding, school homework and time with family.

As Martin recounted her cherished memories, Steenkamp’s father Barry, who suffered a near-fatal stroke after Reeva’s death, wept in court, his shoulders shaking.

Pistorius sat in the dock, also wiping away tears.

Martin recalled she was in a car when she heard on the radio that Pistorius appeared to have shot his girlfriend.

“I remember saying to my husband: ‘I hope to God he’s cheating on Reeva.'”

But when Martin saw her distraught mother she knew it was not so. “For me it was the end of the world,” she told the court.

Both the prosecution and defence will give their closing arguments on Pistorius’s sentencing before court is adjourned Friday for judge Masipa to make her decision on the athlete’s fate.

“Mr Roux and I have agreed that we will finalize the arguments,” said Nel, who announced he would not call any further witnesses.

Whatever sentence the athlete receives, his lucrative sporting career is forever tarnished, with all of his major sponsors cancelling his contracts.

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.