3 Dec 2015

Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder of Reeva Steenkamp

A South African appeal court finds the athlete known as the “Blade Runner” guilty of murdering Reeva Steenkamp after “an error in law” in the original trial.

Oscar Pistorius

The appeals court judge in Bloemfontein delivered the ruling after the prosecution contested the earlier verdict which found him guilty of the lesser crime of “culpable homicide”.

“This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions,” Justice Eric Leach said as he started reading the ruling.

Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, sat in court as the finding was delivered. Afterwards the model’s father welcomed the result.

“It’s a big relief. I feel like it’s a fair decision that the judge gave,” Barry Steenkamp said.

The family of the gold-medallist runner said their legal team would “study the finding and we will be guided by them” on the next steps. They would not comment on whether they were considering an appeal through a constitutional court.

Pistorius, who is currently under house arrest having served one year behind bars, will be re-sentenced at a later date.

Murder carries a 15-year minimum sentence in South Africa, meaning it’s likely that the “Blade Runner” will return to prison. Judges can, in extenuating circumstances, use their discretion to hand down shorter sentences.

Previous verdict

Last year the Olympic runner was given a 5-year sentence for “culpable homicide” after he killed his girlfriend in 2013, firing four shots through a toilet door.

That charge was effectively scaled up today by a panel of five South African supreme court judge who concluded that the court had not correctly applied the rule of “dolus eventualis” – criminal intent.

Justice Leach said that the first trial had considered only whether Pistorius knew Reeva Steenkamp was behind the door when he began shooting, not whether he should have known that “there was a person behind the door who might possibly be killed by his actions”.

He said: “Although frightened, the accused armed himself to shoot if there was someone in the bathroom and when there was, he did.

“In doing so he must have foreseen, and therefore did foresee that the person he was firing at behind the door might be fatally injured.”

He compared Pistorius’s actions to that of someone setting off a bomb in a public place not knowing who the victims would be.