Oscar Pistorius murder sentence: Reeva Steenkamp's father says couple had argument on night she was killed

Barry Steenkamp breaks down in court as he says the former Olympian must 'pay' for his crime

Tom Peck
Tuesday 14 June 2016 10:07
Barry Steenkamp: "It devastated us. I ended up having a stroke."

Reeva Steenkamp’s father broke down in the witness box as he told Oscar Pistorius’s sentencing hearing how he and his wife have struggled to cope since his daughter’s murder.

The former Paralympic and Olympic athlete is due to be sentenced for the murder of his girlfriend after his initial manslaughter conviction – for which he served 10 months of a five-year sentence – was upgraded to murder upon appeal.

Her father, Barry Steenkamp, said Pistorius must “pay” for his actions – before speaking about the emotional impact of his daughter's death.

“Morning, noon, at night, early hours of the morning. I think about her all the time,” he said, shaking and holding back tears as he did so.

He said he thought “there had been an argument” between his daughter and Pistorius on the night she was killed, but was stopped from elaborating further for legal reasons by State Prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

“People say it takes you two years, three years and you start feeling a bit better about the whole thing,” he said. “But every day of my life is the same. I talk to her. If I see a feather, or something like that. Reeva is with me all the time, yes.”

Mr Steenkamp, 73, said his daughter’s death had “changed him completely”.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a recluse, but I can’t really mix with people anymore. I sit on my veranda, at two, three o’clock in the morning. I smoke my cigarettes and drink my coffee.

“I get messages virtually every day on Facebook, from people who support us. Photographs of Reeva. I must have a couple of hundred of them, which I go through every day.”

He said the Christian approach his wife, June, had taken in response to their daughter's murder did not absolve Pistorius of blame.

"She feels it’s right in her heart to forgive Oscar," he said. "It still does not exonerate you for the crime that you committed. He must still understand that he has to pay for that.

“June has forgiven him so that she can carry on with her life. But I feel the same, that Oscar has to pay for what he did. He has to pay for it.

“That is up to the court. And we will go by the decision that the court hands down to Oscar. But he has to pay from his crime.

“I don’t want to say that he has to go to the maximum… But he has to pay for it.”

As Pistorius, 29, looked on almost expressionless, Mr Steenkamp told the court of what happened on the night of the murder, when he received a phone call from his wife.

“She said, come home immediately. Come home. I realised Reeva’s name was there. That’s when I started the panic. I realised more and more that Reeva has been killed. It’s like it happened yesterday. That’s how I first heard about it.

“I don’t wish that on any human being,” he said. “Finding out what happened. It devastated us. I ended up having a stroke. And now so many things since then have happened where I’ve gone to doctors, and to surgeons, which I still have to go into, for my heart, and everything like that. I don’t wish that on anybody in this whole world.”

He said press reports had said he and his wife were close to bankruptcy, which their landlady saw and served them notice on their home and they were forced to move out.

He told the court he thinks “all the time” of “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.”

Mr Steenkamp, who suffers from diabetes, said at time he had used “his needles to shove into my legs and into my arms and see if I could feel the same pain, but no.”

He also revealed he was “disgusted” when it came up in court that he and his wife had agreed, on the advice of his lawyers, to receive money from the Pistorius family.

Oscar Pistorius as he awaited trail at Pretoria Magistrates Court in 2013 ( Reuters)

“It was discussed between the defence lawyers and our lawyers. They arranged that amongst themselves,” he said.

“We didn’t like the idea but we were in dire straits at the time. Barry, don’t worry, this will be private and confidential. I said I’ll leave it up to you to do what you must do for us. I heard it was Mr Barry Roux who requested it stayed private and confidential.

“I was disgusted when it came out that something like that could have been brought up. And immediately when we were offered 360,000 rand, we immediately declined it. We said we don’t want it. It makes no difference. It’s my daughter that’s gone. It’s not the money.

He also said he had seen “only one photo” of Reeva’s murdered body, the one that was produced in court when Mr Steenkamp was present two years ago, but that he wanted “the world to see” the others, as a warning to anyone thinking of using firearms.

He also indicated he would be willing to meet Oscar Pistorius and “talk to him” but “not now, not yet".

Pistorius’s defence counsel Mr Roux told him “there is nothing Mr Pistorius wants more".

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