ATHLETE Oscar Pistorius is facing a jail term after being convicted of the culpable homicide of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a Valentine’s Day shooting at his home.
The double-amputee, a poster boy for South African and Paralympic sport, acted “negligently” on the night he shot and killed law graduate-turned-model Ms Steenkamp, high court judge Thokozile Masipa said.
Pistorius always admitted killing the 29-year-old in 2013 when he fired four shots through his toilet door, but said it was a tragic accident and a case of mistaken identity. He said he thought the person in his bathroom was an intruder, and not his long-term girlfriend.
Judge Masipa acquitted Pistorius of pre-meditated murder and second-degree murder, but convicted him of culpable homicide.
Pistorius – nicknamed Blade Runner because of his prosthetic limbs – was released on bail until a sentencing hearing on 13 October.
Last night, the victim’s parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, condemned the verdict, saying it was “not justice for Reeva”.
Mrs Steenkamp said: “He shot through the door and I can’t believe that they believe it was an accident.”
But Arnold Pistorius, the athlete’s uncle, said the family was “deeply grateful” to the judge for finding him not guilty of murder and that a “big burden” had been lifted.
“There are no victors in this,” he added. “We as a family remain deeply affected by the devastating, tragic event. It won’t bring Reeva back but our hearts still go out for her family and friends.”
Earlier, delivering the verdict, Judge Masipa told the hushed courtroom: “Having regard to the totality of this evidence in this matter, the unanimous decision of this court is the following: on count one, murder the accused is found not guilty and is discharged. Instead he is found guilty of culpable homicide.”
Despite the conviction the International Paralympic Committee said Pistorius – who made history by becoming the first double amputee to run in an Olympic Games – would be allowed to compete in future events.
Craig Spence, the body’s director of media and communications, said: “Oscar’s done a great deal for the Paralympic movement, he’s been an inspiration to millions, but obviously his priority now is to see what the judge decides.
“And then if he wishes to resume his athletics career then we wouldn’t step in his way, we would allow him to compete again in the future.”
On Wednesday, on the first day of delivering her verdict, the judge criticised Pistorius for acting hastily when he shot Ms Steenkamp.
She said: “The accused had reasonable time to think, reflect and conduct himself. The accused knew there was a person behind the toilet door, he chose to use a firearm. I am of the view the accused acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent.”
Pistorius stood with his hands crossed to hear the final verdict but showed no emotion. His family embraced him during a break in proceedings.
Earlier, he was cleared of two gun charges and convicted of a third – an incident at a restaurant where more than 200 people were present in January last year.
The sentence for a culpable homicide conviction is at the judge’s discretion, although it can range from a suspended jail term and a fine to up to 15 years in prison.
The shamed sportsman made no comment as he left the court.