Reeva Steenkamp’s father broke down in court on Tuesday as he told a dramatic sentencing hearing that Oscar Pistorius must “pay for his crime” of murdering his daughter three years ago.
It was the first time that 73-year-old Barry Steenkamp testified in court and directly addressed Pistorius.
The Paralympic athlete killed Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013, saying he mistook her for a burglar when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet.
In March, Pistorius’s lawyers lost an appeal judgement that upgraded his original conviction from culpable homicide — the equivalent of manslaughter — to murder.
“It has been very difficult for me to forgive… I feel that Oscar has to pay for what he did. He has to pay for his crime,” Barry Steenkamp said, tears streaming down his face.
Reliving how his daughter, 29, died, Steenkamp said: “What she must have gone through in those split seconds — she must have been in so much fear and pain. That is what I think of, all the time.”
“It must have been absolutely awful.”
He also said that he believed the couple had argued on the night of the murder — disputing Pistorius’s claims.
Pistorius held his head in his hands, sobbing during the testimony at the High Court in the South African capital Pretoria.
Barry Steenkamp, a former racehorse trainer, described the chaos and panic when his wife June rang him at work early in the morning after Reeva, a model and law graduate, was shot.
“June grieves like I do, all the time. I hear her at night, I hear her crying, I hear her talking to Reeva,” he added, saying that June had tried to forgive Pistorius to help her cope with the loss of her daughter.
“You must still understand that he must pay for that, although June has forgiven,” he said.
– Murder term –
The original trial judge Thokozile Masipa is due to hand down a new sentence for murder after arguments from both prosecution and defence.
The hearing — held in the same courtroom as the original trial — was adjourned until Wednesday morning. It is scheduled to last until Friday.
Pistorius faces a minimum 15-year jail term for murder, but his sentence could be reduced due to time already spent in prison and mitigating factors, including his disability.
He was released from jail last October to live under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria after serving one year of his five-year sentence for culpable homicide.
Earlier Tuesday, the mother of a disabled child and Pistorius’s pastor gave evidence as character witnesses for his defence.
Ebba Gudmundsdottir, from Iceland, told how Pistorius had befriended her family when she was pregnant with a child who would be born without legs.
“He gave us his phone number for us to ask him or consult with him anytime we needed it, which we did and that was lovely,” she told the court.
Gudmundsdottir said Pistorius has been an “inspiration” to her son, and they had gone to see him compete three times in the Paralympics.
Pistorius once gave her son a gold medal and said “This is for you champion”.
Marius Nel, Pistorius’s pastor, told the court that Pistorius was “very excited and positive” about becoming involved in the church’s education projects.
Another witness, prison nurse Charlotte Mashabane, alleged that Pistorius had been a difficult inmate and had argued with officials, shouting and banging her desk in a dispute over medication.
Barry Roux, defence lawyer, accused her of giving contradictory evidence and exaggerating Pistorius’s behaviour due to a personality clash.
Pistorius has always denied killing Steenkamp in a rage and, during his seven-month trial in 2014, vomited in the dock as details of his lover’s death were examined in excruciating detail.
The year before he killed Steenkamp, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level when he appeared at the London 2012 games.