Crime scene photographs of Reeva Steenkamp’s dead body after she was killed by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius will be made public, a judge has ruled.
Judge Thokozile Masipa approved a request on Wednesday from Chief Prosecutor Gerrie Nel to release the pictures showing Ms Steenkamp's fatal wounds— including a severe head injury.
The decision comes after Pistorius walked around North Gauteng High Court without his prosthetic legs as his lawyer Barry Roux attempted to show the double-amputee Olympic athlete is a vulnerable man who deserves leniency when sentenced.
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.
Mr Roux argued Pistorius had no intent to kill his girlfriend and believed she was an intruder when he shot her through a door on Valentine’s Day 2013.
WARNING: Below are images of Reeva Steenkamp that some readers may find distressing
Arguing that Pistorius was a scared and disabled man when he shot Ms Steenkamp, Mr Roux told the court: "I don't want to overplay disability but the time has come that we must just look [at Pistorius] with different eyes”.
Pictures of Ms Steenkamp’s dead body have previously been withheld from the public in order to “protect the integrity of the deceased”.
Speaking at Pistorius’ sentencing hearing, Mr Nel asked Judge Masipa to lift the order banning the publication of the photographs, citing a request from Ms Steenkamp’s her father in his testimony on Tuesday.
Barry Steenkamp’s father broke down in the witness box as he told the court how he and his wife have struggled to cope since his daughter’s murder.
While speaking of the emotional impact of his daughter’s death he said had seen “only one photo” of Ms Steenkamp’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.
Mr Nel repeated the request in court adding: “The court should have access to these photographs. The court itself should revisit certain things in sentencing.
“Four bullets tore through her body. The court should take that into account as an aggravating factor… It’s part of sentencing.
“We think it’s time that people should see what those bullets did; what the accused did.”
The defendant’s brother, Carl Pistorius, who is in court, said over twitter that the application to release the photos was “distasteful”.
“This application is distasteful to all parties. Except perhaps some parties who stand to profit from such,” said Mr Pistorius.
Defence lawyer Mr Roux suggested the application was inappropriate at this stage of the proceedings and should have been a separate application with separate submissions. He asked the court: “Must children look at it?.. What is going to be achieved?”
While allowing the request to release the pictures, Judge Masipa said as it was the state that initially asked for the pictures to be withheld and it is now the same party now asking for them to be made public, the request did not need to be dealt with in a separate application.
Judge Masipa has the power to reduce South Africa’s minimum 15-year prison term for murder after listening to evidence from the prosecution and defence.
Mr Nel said Pistorius should get the minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder, arguing that he had not shown genuine remorse as well as noting the seriousness of the crime and the devastating impact on Ms Steenkamp's family.
Judge Masipa says she will announce Pistorius' sentence for the murder of Ms Steenkamp on 6 July.
Additional reporting by agencies