Relaymedia

Oscar Pistorius Trial: Reeva Steenkamp's Father Says Christian Faith Has Allowed Him To Forgive Athlete, But He Still 'Must Pay'

( [email protected] ) Jun 14, 2016 11:08 AM EDT
While emphasizing that Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympic star convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 2013, "has to pay for what he did," the victim's father has said his Christian faith has allowed him to forgive the athlete.
Former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius appears for sentencing for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp at the Pretoria High Court, South Africa June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Deaan Vivier/Pool

While emphasizing that Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympic star convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 2013, "has to pay for what he did," the victim's father has said his Christian faith has allowed him to forgive the athlete.

In an emotional testimony that was broadcast live across South Africa, the father, Barry Steenkamp, said that the death of his daughter, Reeva Steenkamp, had devastated him and his wife and contributed to his failing health, according to Reuters.

"I don't really go to church, but I'm a Christian," Mr. Steenkamp, 73, told Judge Masipa, adding that his wife, June, has recurring nightmares resulting from the crime.

"I hear her crying at night. I hear her talking to Reeva. She feels just as much as I do... June has forgiven. She feels it's right in her heart to forgive Oscar," he said. "But then you must understand why forgiving like that - it still does not exonerate you from the crime that you committed."

Reeva Steenkamp, a law school graduate, model and aspiring reality-television star, was 29 when Pistorius fired four shots through a locked bathroom door in their Pretoria home on Feb. 14, 2013, killing her. Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics, maintained that he thought an intruder had broken into the home and that the killing was an accident, according to The Guardian.

Mr. Steenkamp, who is diabetic and uses a cane, said the pain from his daughter's murder had been so severe that he would use his insulin syringe to hurt himself.

"I would take the needle and shove it into my stomach and my arms to see if I could feel the same type of pain, but no," he said while crying.

He added, "It just devastated us, I ended up having a stroke... I just don't wish that to anybody in this world...We will go by the decision that the court hands down to Oscar. But he has to pay for his crime. I don't want to say that he has to go to the maximum or whatever it is, but he has to pay." 

He also told the judge he was haunted by the thought that his daughter had suffered in her final moments. "What she must have gone through in those split seconds - she must have been in so much fear and pain," he said. "That is what I think of all the time. I can see it myself. It must have been absolutely and utterly awful."

The New York Times notes that in September 2014, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa of the High Court in Pretoria found Pistorius not guilty of murder, but convicted him of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five years in prison. After serving one year, the athlete was released to serve the remainder of his punishment under house arrest and under correctional supervision.

Prosecutors appealed Judge Masipa's ruling to South Africa's top appeals court, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. In December, the court convicted Mr. Pistorius of murder, finding that Judge Masipa had misinterpreted the legal concept of dolus eventualis. The court argued that the athlete knew that firing through the locked door would kill whoever was inside, even if he did not believe it was Ms. Steenkamp.

The court referred the matter back to Judge Masipa for sentencing. The proceedings began on Monday, and a decision is expected this week.