Father of Reeva Steenkamp testifies at Pistorius sentencing


PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — 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 today he thinks of her “all the time.”

Barry Steenkamp spoke at the sentencing hearing for the former track star, 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.

Steenkamp’s testimony, however, was 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 Thokozile 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.”

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.

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

Judge 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.

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 an earlier conviction for manslaughter — a conviction that was overturned — 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.”