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Father of Reeva Steenkamp testifies at Pistorius sentencing

14 June 2016, 16:54

Pretoria — His voice breaking with emotion, the father of Reeva Steenkamp testified in a South African court on Tuesday that her fatal shooting by boyfriend Oscar Pistorius "devastated" his family and that he thinks of her constantly, even trying to imagine the horrific moment of her death.

"Oscar has to pay for what he did," said Barry Steenkamp, adding that he would like to talk to the former track star in private at a later stage.

Steenkamp spoke at the sentencing hearing for Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend in his home in 2013 in a case that transfixed many around the world, partly because of the dramatic fall of a once-acclaimed athlete and the shocking nature of his crime.

Pistorius is currently under house arrest after initially serving one year of a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter for shooting Reeva Steenkamp. But that conviction was overturned last year by an appeals court, which convicted Pistorius of the more serious charge of murder.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who initially acquitted Pistorius of murder, will decide the new sentence. The hearing is scheduled to run through Friday this week. South Africa has a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder, although a judge can reduce that in some circumstances.

Barry Steenkamp gave testimony about the wrenching, personal grief of a distraught father who lost a daughter in a fatal shooting.

"She must have been in so much fear, pain," Steenkamp said, his hands shaking at times. "That is what I think of all the time."

Under questioning from chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel, Steenkamp urged Judge Masipa to allow the public to see the graphic photos of his daughter's wounds that were entered as evidence during Pistorius' trial but not allowed to be shown to a wider audience. Perhaps, Steenkamp said, people who are "thinking of that type of deed" will hesitate before committing such a violent act if they see the photos.

He said the death of Reeva Steenkamp, a model who was shot multiple times through a toilet cubicle door, contributed to his heart and other health problems and that his wife June grieves just as much as he does despite what he called her "stone-faced" demeanor in public.

"I hear her at night," Barry Steenkamp said. "I hear her crying. I hear her talking to Reeva."

He said of his daughter's death: "It devastated us."

Also read: Pistorius to apply for bail in South African court

Sitting in the courtroom, Pistorius looked downward as Steenkamp testified. Afterward, during an adjournment, he sat hunched forward, apparently emotional, as his siblings, Carl and Aimee, sought to comfort him.

Earlier, a pastor and a woman whose son was born without legs testified for Pistorius' defense.

Pastor Marius Nel said he had been in contact with schools that want the double-amputee Olympian to help disadvantaged children with sports training. The pastor also said he had visited Pistorius after he was jailed for the earlier manslaughter conviction and found him to be a "broken" man.

The testimony reflects an argument by defense lawyer Barry Roux that Pistorius should not go to jail because he can make a valuable contribution to society and would face increasing mental deterioration if he returns to prison.

Another witness, Ebba Gudny Gudmundsdottir of Iceland, testified that Pistorius was kind to her disabled son and gave him a gold medal that he won at a race.

"We still have that medal," Gudmundsdottir said. "It was a very lovely gesture."

A nurse at the prison where Pistorius was jailed after his manslaughter conviction later testified for the prosecution about several alleged confrontations with Pistorius over medication and other issues. In one episode, nurse Charlotte Mashabane said, Pistorius got angry because officials came to his cell for a routine check while he was sleeping.

Pistorius shouted "Get out!" and covered himself with a sheet, Mashabane said. In another episode, she said, Pistorius banged a notebook on a table.

She said her supervisor later told her not to interact with Pistorius anymore. In cross examination, defense lawyer Roux suggested Mashabane and Pistorius were not "compatible" and that the nurse was searching for negative things to say about him.

Some exchanges between the defense lawyer and Mashabane drew murmurs and laughter from the gallery, prompting the judge, Masipa, to urge onlookers to restrain themselves.

"We're not here for a picnic," she said.

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.

- AP


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