Tuesday 24 April 2018

Our ordeal is over now, say murdered Reeva's family

June Steenkamp, the mother of Reeve Steenkamp, is comforted in court yesterday
June Steenkamp, the mother of Reeve Steenkamp, is comforted in court yesterday

Aislinn Laing

Reeva Steenkamp's family have said their ordeal was "over now" after one of the longest and most closely-watched trials in recent history had its ruling overturned.

South Africa's Supreme Court Judge Eric Leach described the case as a human tragedy "of Shakespearean proportions" as he found Oscar Pistorius guilty of the murder of his girlfriend.

Her father Barry Steenkamp said both families could now get on with their lives. I've been watching since 7am," he said from his pub in Port Elizabeth. "If you took note of what I've said right from the beginning, it's not over yet, it's not over yet . . . it's over now.

"For us as a family, we can get on with our lives now and I hope his family can get on with their lives now," he said.

In a statement he added: "I am sure that Reeva is up there watching it and now she's saying 'justice was done'. I am sure she'll be able to rest well now."

The Supreme Court of Appeals quashed the culpable homicide conviction against the 29-year-old double amputee, once a superstar who graced the cover of 'Time' magazine and was a regular on the world's most-watched talk shows.

Reeva's mother June appeared tearful and embraced by family members in court as Judge Leach gave his verdict.

South African criminal lawyers pointed out that the athlete could appeal against the outcome of the case to South Africa's Constitutional Court, if he chose to argue that a 'trial by the media' had infringed his human rights and denied him a fair trial.

Media interest in the trial, which ran through much of 2014, was intense but others believe the argument is unlikely to get him off serving more time in a single cell in the hospital wing of Kgosi Mampuru II prison, five minutes' drive from the luxurious mansion where he is under house arrest.

Judge Eric Leach, who read the ruling, said Pistorius was a young man who overcame huge physical disabilities to reach Olympian heights as an athlete.

"He becomes an international celebrity. He meets a young woman of great natural beauty and a successful model. Romance blossoms - and then, ironically on Valentine's Day, all is destroyed when he takes her life," Leach said.

"This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions."

Pistorius, who grew up in Pretoria with a single mother, an older brother and a younger sister, achieved incredible success despite the odds stacked against him. Both of his deformed legs were amputated when he was a baby.

He was bullied throughout school and his mother was so anxious about crime in South Africa that she slept with a gun under her pillow.

Pistorius refused to let his disability get the better of him, unsatisfied with being a paralympic champion, he set his sites on the ultimate prize - the Olympics. After a lengthy battle he won the right to compete alongside able-bodied athletes.

It was his participation in the 2012 London Olympics that made him a superstar.

But despite his growing wealth, behind the scenes Pistorius was growing increasingly agitated.

He fired a gun in a restaurant and shot through the roof of his car after he had been stopped for speeding. He started dating Reeva Steenkamp, a bikini model and law graduate, soon after the London Olympics.

On the morning of February 14, 2014, with a Valentine's card from Steenkamp waiting for him in the kitchen of his luxury home in Pretoria, Pistorius loaded his pistol and fired four shots through a locked bathroom door.

Steenkamp was hit three times and died at the scene. During his trial, a tearful Pistorius claimed he thought she was a burglar and he fired out of fear.

The Supreme Court of Appeals today ruled his actions constituted murder.

"In these circumstances, although he may have been anxious, it is inconceivable that a rational person could have believed he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy calibre firearm, without taking even that most elementary precaution of firing a warning shot," Judge Leach said. (© Daily Telegraph London)


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