South Africa

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to 6 years in prison for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

The athlete’s defence team says it will not appeal the jail term handed down today.

OSCAR PISTORIUS HAS been sentenced to six years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The South African was released from prison last October after serving one year of a five-year term for culpable homicide (manslaughter). However, an appeals court found that he should have been convicted of murder after shooting Steenkamp four times on Valentine’s Day 2013.

The fresh sentencing hearing today was presided upon by Judge Thokozile Masipa. She told the court that she found there were more mitigating than aggravating factors in the case and, therefore, she should deviate from the prescribed sentence for murder.

In her hour-long judgement, she outlined why she found there to be compelling and substantial circumstances in this case.

A murder conviction in South Africa usually has a minimum sentence of 15 years but mitigating factors – time already spent in prison, the fact that this is Pistorius’s first offence, the court’s opinion that he is unlikely to reoffend, and his genuine remorse – were taken into account by Masipa.

In her concluding remarks, she described Pistorius’s wish to perform community service as noble but added that punishment is “not what you choose to do” but is “something that is imposed on you”.

It is unpleasant, uncomfortable, painful and inconvenient. It is certainly not what you love to do.

She said she had to take his current situation into account when sentencing, as well as the gravity of the offence, the interest of society and the victim of the offence and her family.

“The determination is never easy,” she continued. “It is made even more difficult by the fact that nothing this court could do or say will bring back the life of the deceased.”

It is understood that Pistorius does not intend to appeal the sentence.



The former athlete has claimed that he mistook Reeva for a burglar and, feeling vulnerable, fired the deadly weapon, sending four bullets through the bathroom door.

Masipa spoke about the public’s perception that this was not the case and that there was a belief that Pistorius and Reeva argued on the night before she died.

“There is not a shred of evidence that supports such a perception,” she said, dismissing any right of the court to speculate and stating that there is no indication that this case is based on gender violence or that the relationship was an abusive one.

However, she did comment that murder is “always a serious crime” and his belief that the person behind the door was an intruder does not make it less serious.

Sentence hearing

In a sentencing hearing, held in Pretoria last month, Pistorius walked around the courtroom without his prosthetic legs on in order to demonstrate his disability.

As he held onto wooden benches for support, his lawyer Barry Roux made a plea for a shorter sentence.

“It is three o’clock in the morning, it is dark, he is on his stumps,” Roux said, stressing his client’s vulnerability.

His balance is seriously compromised and… he would not be able to defend himself. He was anxious, he was frightened.

“His perception that he and the deceased were in danger was fortified by finding the open bathroom window. He believed the person in the toilet was an intruder and deceased was at the time in the bed.”

The judge, today, agreed that there are two persons to be dealt with – the Oscar Pistorius on his stumps and the man on his prosthetic legs. She said she did not have to see the demonstration to know this.

Roux had also argued that Pistorius’s life was irreversibly changed when he murdered Steenkamp. He claimed that he has “lost everything”.

He can never ever resume his career. He lost his future… he has paid physically, he is the shadow of the man he was. He is a broken man, he has paid financially, he has paid socially. He is paying constantly.

His words were echoed by the presiding judge today who called Pistorius a ‘fallen hero’.

“The life of the accused shall also never been the same. He is a fallen hero who has lost his career and is financially ruined,” she said, adding that he cannot be at peace after taking the life of another human being.

On the other side, State prosecutor Gerrie Nel urged the judge to impose the severest penalty during the hearings.

“He knew there was someone behind the door,” he said.

Using a lethal weapon, a loaded firearm, the accused fired not one but four shots to the toilet door. He failed to provide any acceptable version for his conduct.

Masipa listed Pistorius’s use of a lethal weapon he was trained in operating and his firing of four (and not just one) bullet as aggravating factors – but judged that the mitigating elements of the case outweighed this.

Steenkamp family

The judge referred to Reeva’s family multiple times during her sentencing today, speaking of the picture painted by her cousin and father during last month’s hearing of a young, vivacious woman full of life and hope for the future.

She noted the devastating effect her murder has had on the Steenkamp family, as well as their friends, and how they have said they will never get over her death.

“The deceased had plans for herself and her parents,” the judge told the court. “She supported her parents financially and expressed a wish to continue to do so to make their lives easy.

The deceased called home every weekend… It is therefore not surprising that the family is still grieving. It is clear from the evidence that [they] had a very close bond and celebrated occasions together… They feel the loss deeply.

Barry Steenkamp, 73, Reeva’s father, broke down in court as he said Pistorius must “pay for his crime” of shooting his 29-year-old daughter.

He described how her death had impacted his health and how he got up at 3am to sit on the veranda of his house to talk to her while smoking. He said his wife suffers as much as he does.

“The evidence shows that the pain runs deep and the impact of the accused’s conduct has been devastating,” Masipa concluded.

Kim Martin, Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin, gave the last State evidence in the June hearing.

“I never ever heard him say that ‘I apologise for shooting, murdering Reeva behind that door’,” she told the court.

We just wanted the truth.

She added that she was uncertain whether Pistorius and Steenkamp were in a truly loving relationship.

TV Interview

During last month’s hearings, Nel was also scathing about a TV interview which Pistorius filmed while claiming to be too ill and depressed to face cross-examination in court.

The Olympian granted an interview to British broadcaster ITV during which he said that his late girlfriend wouldn’t want him to waste his life behind bars.

“I don’t want to go back to jail. I don’t want to have to waste my life sitting there,” he said.

If I was afforded the opportunity of redemption, I would like to help the less fortunate.

“I would like to believe that if Reeva could look down upon me that she would want me to live that life.”

For the past year, Pistorius has been living under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria.

The interview was not referred to in today’s judgement.

With reporting by AFP 

Read: Oscar Pistorius walks around courtroom without prosthetics during sentencing hearing

Interview: Reeva wouldn’t want me to waste my life behind bars, Oscar Pistorius says

More: “Oscar Pistorius must pay for his crime” – Reeva Steenkamp’s father makes emotional plea

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