Pistorius sentencing: Steenkamp’s family seeks jail term
1 hour ago Africa
South African athlete Oscar Pistorius should be given “sufficient punishment” for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, her cousin has told the sentencing hearing in Pretoria.
Kim Martin said Pistorius, 27, “needs to pay for what he has done”.
He was convicted of culpable homicide last month but cleared of murder and faces up to 15 years in jail, but the judge may suspend it or impose a fine.
Prisons chief Moleko Modise later said the athlete would be safe in prison.
He was responding to a defence witness who said the disabled athlete would be “broken” by prison, with his lawyers saying he should instead serve house arrest and community service for the killing.
Judge Thokozile Masipa has adjourned the sentencing hearing until Friday morning.
The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Pretoria says it appears that the sentence itself will be delivered on Tuesday.
It is Judge Thokozile Masipa’s 67th birthday on Thursday
‘Not seeking revenge’
Ms Martin – the prosecution’s first sentencing witness – said on Thursday that she was fearful of Pistorius.
“My family are not people who are seeking revenge, we just feel that to shoot somebody behind a door that is unarmed, that is harmless, needs sufficient punishment,” she said.
On Wednesday, Ms Martin recounted her pain at hearing that the 29-year-old South African model had been shot dead, saying her death was “the end of the world”.
Pistorius’ lawyer said prisoners had made threats against the athlete
The prosecution maintained Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp after an argument
At the scene: Andrew Harding, BBC News, Pretoria
We got glimpses in court on Thursday both of the prison life Oscar Pistorius can expect if Judge Masipa chooses a custodial sentence for him, and of the rather abrasive characters who once were part of his social circle.
In recent days the public gallery in courtroom D has seen an influx of conspicuously muscular men who’ve sat close to Reeva Steenkamp’s family. Marc Batchelor is a former footballer and debt collector who has clashed with Pistorius in the past. Mikey Schultz is a self-confessed killer and former boxer. Mark Strydom is, according to legal sources, on parole after serving time for attempted murder and assault.
At one point Mr Schultz and Mr Strydom sat, unexpectedly, on the bench reserved for the Pistorius family, and according to the defendant’s brother Carl, Mr Schultz mouthed an obscenity at his sister Aimee, leaving her in tears. Mr Schultz told me later that he’d done no such thing but agreed with Mr Strydom and Mr Batchelor that, in his opinion, Oscar Pistorius was “a murderer” who was “getting off lightly”.
Read more from Andrew Harding in court
Moleko Modise, the Acting National Commissioner for Correctional Services, was later called to defend the reputation of South African prisons, which he said “can cope” with disabled prisoners like Pistorius.
He said that a health assessment was conducted on all inmates “within six hours of admission”, and a complete assessment would be completed within 21 days to consider the “security classification” and “social and psychological needs” of the prisoner.
Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Barry Roux, Mr Modise said he thought Pistorius should be placed in the hospital wing of a prison, not the regular section.
Mr Roux cited reports of undiagnosed tuberculosis in South African prisons, as well as rising numbers of incidents of assault and torture in the past year.
Under questioning, Mr Modise said there was one resident doctor for about 7,000 inmates at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria.
Mr Roux also said several newspapers had reported threats made by prisoners against Pistorius. However, Mr Modise said he was not aware of any threats being made against Pistorius.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has said he will call three or four witnesses in all.
Earlier in the week, social worker Annette Vergeer said double-amputee Pistorius should be placed under house arrest rather than sent to prison, because he would be “a lot more vulnerable than the normal man” in jail.
Mr Nel said her opinion of a sentence of house arrest plus community service “cannot be considered”.
“If the court sentence is too light, and society loses trust in the court, they will take the law into their own hands,” Mr Nel said.
“That’s what the court has to guard against.”
The Paralympic sprinter denied murdering Ms Steenkamp after a row on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he shot her by mistake, fearing there was an intruder in the house.
Ms Steenkamp, a law graduate, was hit three times by bullets shot through a toilet door by Pistorius at his home in the capital, Pretoria.
Inside Oscar Pistorius’s home
Mr Pistorius said he and Ms Steenkamp had dinner at about 19:00 before going to bed at 21:00. He said he woke in the early hours, spoke briefly to his girlfriend and got up to close the sliding door and curtains.
Judge Thokozile Masipa questioned the reliability of several witnesses who said they heard screams and gunshots between about 03:12 and 03:17, saying most had ‘got facts wrong’.
Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.
Mr Pistorius said he grabbed his firearm and told Ms Steenkamp, who he thought was still in bed, to call the police.
The judge said it made no sense that Ms Steenkamp did not hear him scream ‘Get out’ or call the police, as she had her mobile phone with her.
Mr Pistorius could see the bathroom window was open and toilet door closed. He said he did not know whether the intruders were outside on a ladder or in the toilet.
He had his firearm in front of him, he heard a movement inside the toilet and thought whoever was inside was coming out to attack him.
‘Before I knew it, I had fired four shots at the door,’ he said.
The judge said she did not accept that Mr Pistorius fired the gun by accident or before he knew what was happening. She said he had armed himself with a lethal weapon and clearly wanted to use it. The other question, she said, was why he fired not one, but four shots before he ran back to the room to try to find Ms Steenkamp.
Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom and noticed that Ms Steenkamp was not there.
Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet and rushed back to the bathroom.
Mr Pistorius said he screamed for help and went back to the bathroom where he found the toilet was locked. He returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs and turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.
When the door panel broke, he found the key and unlocked the door and found Ms Steenkamp slumped on the floor with her head on the toilet bowl. He then carried her downstairs, where he was met by neighbours.
3D animation of the apartment