Former Olympian Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of murder after an appeals court overturned a verdict of manslaughter for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.
Justice Lorimer Eric Leach of South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal delivered the ruling by the five-judge tribunal in Bloemfontein and directed the trial court, the North Gauteng High Court, to impose sentence.
He did not specify when that should happen. The former double amputee track star – dubbed blade runner – is currently under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria.
“The accused ought to have been found guilty of murder on the basis that he had fired the fatal shots with criminal intent,” the judge told the courtroom, in the presence of Ms Steenkamp’s mother, June. The ruling was shown live on television.
A 15-year prison sentence is the minimum punishment for murder in South Africa. However, the law allows for a lesser sentence in exceptional circumstances. Pistorius was placed under house arrest in October after a year in jail. He had been sentenced to five years for manslaughter.
The trial court can also consider whether he should be shown leniency because he is disabled and a first-time offender.
Pistorius, 29, killed Steenkamp, also 29, early on Valentine’s Day. He claimed he thought she was an intruder behind the door of a toilet cubicle in his home. The prosecution said he shot Ms Steenkamp during an argument.
Justice Leach said regardless of who might have been behind the door, Pistorius should have known someone could be killed if he fired.
“The identity of his victim is irrelevant to his guilt,” the judge said.
Under the concept of “dolus eventualis” in South African law, a person can be convicted of murder if they foresaw the possibility of someone dying through their actions and went ahead anyway. Pistorius’s family said in a statement that it had taken note of the judgment.
“The legal team will study the finding and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward,” the statement said.
A date for Pistorius’s new sentencing will be announced in Pretoria, where he had been tried and imprisoned.
On Tuesday, journalists got a look at his former cell during a tour of the Kgosi Mampuru II prison’s hospital wing. It is furnished with a single mattress on a metal frame, a basin and a small cabinet. A barred window is backed by a metal screen.