Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin told the sentencing hearing of Oscar Pistorius yesterday how she heard on a car radio that the athlete had killed his girlfriend.
Kim Martin said she had “hoped to God” that Pistorius was cheating on her cousin and that the woman he had shot was not 29-year-old Ms Steenkamp.
“They hadn’t confirmed the name; they said his girlfriend,” she recalled, as she broke down on the witness stand.
“I was trying to phone Reeva and she wasn’t answering and I was screaming at my husband.”
Ms Martin said she went immediately to her mother’s house.
“The doors opened and my mother was hysterical and that’s when I knew it was true,” Ms Martin said.
Her emotional testimony, which caused judge Thokozile Masipa to call a brief adjournment, dealt in detail with the impact of the killing on Ms Steenkamp’s family.
Ms Steenkamp, a law graduate, was shot multiple times by Pistorius inside his Pretoria house.
The double-amputee Olympic runner was found guilty of culpable homicide for negligently killing her, but acquitted of murder after claiming he mistook her for an intruder.
For three days, his defence lawyers have argued for a correctional supervision sentence with periods of house arrest. But prosecutors insist Pistorius, 27, should go to jail.
Ms Martin was the first member of Steenkamp’s family to testify at the trial, which began seven months ago. She said Ms Steenkamp’s death “ruined our whole family,” revealing that Ms Steenkamp’s mother was on medication after the killing.
Ms Martin, who is 12 years older than her cousin, began by saying Steenkamp was the first baby she had ever held, as she was led through her testimony by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
Pistorius faces anything from a suspended sentence or community service to 15 years in jail.
The court heard from Pistorius’ defence that he had been making payments to the Steenkamps. The family confirmed they received 6,000 rand (£340) a month from Pistorius from March 2013 to September 2014 as part of a confidential agreement, adding the money would be returned after the deal was made public.
It is feared a non-custodial sentence may fuel public anger and a perception among black South Africans that wealthy whites are given preferential justice.