Pretoria: “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide yesterday for shooting his lover Reeva Steenkamp, but walked free on bail ahead of what could still be a stiff prison sentence.
South African Judge Thokozile Masipa acquitted Pistorius of murder, but found he acted “negligently” in killing the blonde law graduate and fashion model by firing at her through a bathroom door, claiming he mistook her for an intruder. The 27-year-old athlete — whose journey from disabled infant to Olympic sprinter inspired the world — will hear his punishment when sentencing begins on Oct 13.
His trial had heard that in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year Pistorius fired four hollow point pistol rounds into a locked toilet door, hitting Steenkamp and causing her head to “explode” and “amputating” her arm.
Masipa, dismissing swathes of state evidence as inconclusive or irrelevant, ruled that on the charge of murder “the accused is found not guilty and is discharged. Instead he is found guilty of culpable homicide.”
Sniffles & blank stares
Pistorius stared straight ahead as the conviction was read, showing little emotion. But from the courtroom gallery there were sniffles and shallow breaths as friends and family of 29-year-old Steenkamp wept.
Steenkamp’s father Barry looked at Pistorius and ran his hand over his head while her mother June pursed her lips and shook her head.
Pistorius was eventually escorted by more than a dozen policemen wearing bullet proof vests out of the courtroom and into a heaving crowd outside. Culpable homicide carries no mandatory sentence under South African law. But Masipa — who has a reputation for handing out stiff sentences — could decide to fine Pistorius or put him behind bars for more than a decade.
“It all comes down to how she feels, how bad the mistake was,” said Johannesburg lawyer David Dadic. “It’s a very serious negligence crime.”
Culpable homicide carries no mandatory sentence under South African law and a judge could decide on anything from a suspended sentence to several years behind bars.
South Africa’s state prosecutors, National Prosecution Authority (NPA), said they were “disappointed” by Oscar Pistorius’ acquittal on murder charges, but will wait before deciding whether to appeal the decision.
>> Return to racing
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has said it won’t stand in the way of Oscar Pistorius if he wishes to return to racing. The IPC added that trial had not had a negative impact on the sport.
Shock and relief: The two families react to the verdict
I just don’t feel that this is the right (verdict). (Reeva) died a horrible, painful, terrible death. I can’t believe that they believe that it was an accident
— June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother
I really don’t care what happens to Oscar, it’s not going to change anything because my daughter is not gonna come back.... She is gone forever
— Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father
On behalf of the family, we would really like to show how deeply grateful we are to Judge Masipa who has found Oscar not guilty of murder. We always knew the facts and we never had any doubt in Oscar’s version of this tragic incident. It would be highly inappropriate to make any further statements at this stage. We respect the fact that the legal process is not over and must always be run in the course of justice
— Arnold Pistorius, Oscar’s uncle