The parents of Reeva Steenkamp have reacted with shock and disbelief after a judge acquitted star athlete Oscar Pistorius of her murder, convicting him of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.
“We were shocked. Shocked. Disappointed,” June Steenkamp told Britain’s ITV News on Friday. “You know your heart drops because you just want the truth,” she said, referring to the death of her daughter.
Earlier Friday, 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.
“Blade Runner” Pistorius walked free on bail ahead of what could still be a stiff prison sentence. He had argued that he shot Steenkamp in the dead of the night after 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 October 13.
The father of the victim said he found it difficult to believe Pistorius’ version of the events.
“There is still something missing,” Barry Steenkamp told ITV News. “I think there was more to the whole story, you know, coming up to the actual shooting, the killing.”
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 prosecution 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”.
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.
“I just don’t feel that this is the right (verdict),” she said in a separate interview with America’s NBC News after the final judgement was handed down in Pretoria.
The mother said her daughter had died a “horrible, painful, terrible death”.
“And I can’t believe that they believe that it was an accident,” she said.
Pistorius was 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.” Agency report