‘Jail Oscar for ten years’: Prosecutor demands long prison sentence for Blade Runner killer as his family ‘rocks’ mount show of support
- Prosecutor says society will not accept anything less than decade in prison
- Gasps from Pistorius family as Gerrie Nel pressed judge for jail sentence
- Defence says athlete had suffered enough for shooting Reeva Steenkamp
- Lawyer Barry Roux says media falsely painted him as a ‘cold-blooded killer’
- He said: ‘He’s not only broke, he’s broken. There’s nothing left of this man’
- Athlete’s family have shown unwavering support through seven-month trial
A prosecutor today made one final demand that Oscar Pistorius be jailed for no less than ten years as his family continued to show their unwavering support for the disgraced athlete. As they have done on almost every day of the seven-month trial, the runner’s brother, sister, aunt and uncle took their seats in the courtroom, offering him moral support and hugs of comfort through fits of sobbing and break downs. On what was another emotional day in court, both teams of lawyers had one final chance to convince the judge to hand down the stiffest-possible prison term for killing his girlfriend or let him walk free. It began with defence lawyer Barry Roux painting a picture of Pistorius as a man who had already suffered enough for shooting Reeva Steenkamp – an epic fall from grace of a ‘sporting icon’ now reduced to a ‘broken man’ left with nothing. It finished with prosecutor Gerrie Nel insisting that society would not settle for anything less than a sentence of ten years behind bars, prompting gasps from the Pistorius family. One of the family was heard to say ‘Oh my God’ as it dawned on them that Pistorius could actually lose his liberty.
Meanwhile, supporters of the dead model were keen to ensure she was not forgotten amid the courtroom drama by plastering images of her face all across the courtroom. With unshakeable loyalty to her brother, Aimee Pistorius has sat behind the Paralympian on every single day of the 48 days of court. The 24 year-old, who has been given compassionate leave from her job as an analyst at Investec to attend the athlete’s trial, was the first member of her family to reach out to the relatives of her brother’s victim. In the first few days of the case, she crouched in front of June Steenkamp, spoke quietly and gave her a hand-written note. She has been extremely emotional throughout the trial and demonstrated deep concern for her disabled brother – rushing to his side to provide comfort during every break in proceedings. Their close bond is evident – Pistorius described in his own testimony how he often called his sister in the middle of the night when he was disturbed by nightmares and panic attacks. Her face has often betrayed her feelings towards prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who put such pressure on Pistorius when he was in the witness box, forcing him to face graphic pictures of the woman he had killed and accusing the sprinter of faking his tears to avoid tough questioning. Carl is a little more than a year older than Oscar and fiercely protective of his disabled sibling. He took one of the first calls Oscar made once he had realized he’d killed his girlfriend. Carl, who runs his own promotions company, arrived on the crime scene with Aimee and the family lawyer.
According to a new book about the killing, it was then that Carl removed his brother’s phone from the crime scene, and when it was handed over to police 12 days later, all its data had been removed and the phone had been synced to Carl’s own computer. The athlete’s brother has endured his own legal battles, and only one day before Pistorius’s bail hearing, Carl was in the dock facing his own culpable-homicide charge, stemming from a 2008 car accident, in which he collided with a female motorcyclist, who was killed. He was later cleared. Having been present for almost every day of his brother’s murder trial, the 29-year-old was forced to miss the verdict as he was just awaking from a coma, following another high-speed crash. He has similar looks to his famous younger brother, though prefers are more flamboyant taste in clothes and is easily recognised as he arrives at court by his brightly coloured suits. In court, often when proceedings become hard to follow, he is often seen turning his attention to prayer or mobile phone. He frequently tweets quotes from the Bible, life affirming messages – often accompanied by pictures of sunrise. By the time that proceedings began today, black and white photographs of the dead model’s face had been plastered around the court room. The beautiful law graduate’s face stared out from the clothes of her family and supporters, their security passes, water bottles, coffee cups, laptops, files, even the security scanner through which the athlete had had to pass on his way into court.
Mr Roux said Pistorius was genuinely remorseful for killing the woman he loved and would suffer from this for the rest of his life. Citing ‘Ubuntu’ – an African principal of humanity that is an important pillar of South Africa’s post-apartheid legal system – Mr Roux said the only suitable penalty for Pistorius would be a community-based sentence. Mr Roux said Pistorius never intended to shoot the 29-year-old law graduate four times through a locked toilet door in his upmarket Pretoria home. He argued that the excessive force was a result of the double-amputee’s feeling of vulnerability in the face of what he thought was an intruder. ‘Is it just someone walking to the door thinking there is an intruder or recklessly firing shots into the door or is it a compromised person acting excessively?’ said Roux. ‘It’s a compromised person doing that.’ Mr Roux said Pistorius had written long letters to Miss Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, but they were never handed to them, on the advice of lawyers. He still hopes for a meeting because he is ‘desperate to apologise to help with the healing process’, Mr Roux added.
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel said at the close of the athlete’s sentencing hearing that he must serve at least ten years. ‘The minimum term that society will be happy with will be 10 years imprisonment,’ Mr Nel said. ‘This is a serious matter. The negligence borders on intent. Ten years is the minimum.’ The Pistorius family could barely hide their disgust when Mr Nel accused the double amputee of having ‘handicap on call when it suits him’. He said the track star ‘shamelessly’ exploited his disability to escape time behind bars and yet ignored it to race against able-bodied athletes at the London Olympics. Henke, the athlete’s father cleared his throat loudly and brother Carl took a deep breath, his jaw clenched as Nel urged the Judge to ignore the sprinter’s disability when considering her sentence. ‘A man who wanted to run with able-bodied athletes will now shamelessly used it as an excuse,’ he told the court. The 27-year-old Paralympic and Olympic athlete, whose lower legs were amputated as a baby, was convicted of culpable homicide last month for the shooting of 29-year-old law graduate and model Steenkamp. Pistorius was cleared of murder in September but found guilty of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, for which he could be sentenced to anything from a fine to 15 years in jail.
Yesterday, the court heard how a prison gang leader has threatened to ‘take out’ Oscar Pistorius if he is given preferential treatment in jail. Khalil Subjee – known as The General – said he would order ‘a hit’ on the double-amputee if his fame and wealth bought him an easy time behind bars. Mr Roux quoted the claims from a newspaper article to argue that the athlete’s life would be at risk if he was jailed for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Mr Roux said Subjee, the head of the feared 26s gang who claims to control all of South Africa’s inland jail, made his threats in an interview from a prison phone box. Subjee said: ‘If he thinks he is going to come here and buy his way to get computers and cellphones and a lavish lifestyle, he must know that will never happen for as long as I am around.’ The revelations came after Miss Steenkamp’s cousin made a dramatic appeal for Pistorius to be sent to prison, telling the court that he ‘needs to pay for what he’s done’ to her family and his own. Kim Martins said her family were not seeking revenge, but insisted anything other than a jail sentence would be an affront to justice. Giving evidence for the second day, Mrs Martins, 42, spoke in a broken voice as she called on Judge Thokozile Masipa to ‘send a message to society’ by jailing the athlete. Pistorius faces up to 15 years behind bars for manslaughter – but could also walk free – after shooting the model four times through a toilet door. Fighting back tears, Mrs Martins said: ‘I just feel to take someone’s life – to shoot someone behind a door who is unarmed, who is harmless – needs sufficient punishment. The hearing continues.