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Reeva Steenkamp’s parents received payments from Pistorius, court told


Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photograph: Ihsaan Haffejee/EPAReeva Steenkamp’s parents received payments from Pistorius, court told

Steenkamps have promised to return ‘every cent’ of money sent by the man who killed their daughter, prosecutor Gerrie Nel says

David Smith in Pretoria

The parents of Reeva Steenkamp have been receiving secret monthly payments of 6,000 South African rand (£341) from Oscar Pistorius since her death, but have turned down a lump sum of 375,000 rand (£21,299) as “blood money”.

The cash transfers have not been made public over the past 18 months but emerged on Tuesday during the Paralympian’s trial, to the surprise of many in court. It was said the Steenkamps have promised to return “every cent” of the money sent by the man who killed their daughter.

And at the end of another dramatic day at the high court in Pretoria, Pistorius’s uncle called for police to escort the athlete out of the building after spotting figures from South Africa’s underworld – a self-confessed killer and a former bouncer who has also faced murder charges – in the public gallery.

Pistorius was last month cleared of 29-year-old Steenkamp’s murder but convicted of culpable homicide, the South African equivalent of manslaughter, after shooting her four times through a locked bathroom door at his home. Judge Thokozile Masipa is this week hearing arguments from the prosecution and defence before determining his sentence.

On Tuesday Annette Vergeer, a probation officer and social worker, presented a report that disclosed Pistorius has been making monthly payments to Steenkamp’s parents. But cross-examining the witness, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said: “Those monies will be paid back to the accused in full, every cent.”

He also told how the athlete known as the “Blade Runner” had sold his last asset, a car, for 375,000 rand and paid the money into the trust account of June Steenkamp’s lawyer. “She rejects that, she doesn’t want blood money,” Nel said.

The revelations took many in court by surprise on what was the trial’s 45th day. After the hearing, the Steenkamps’ lawyer, Dup de Bruyn, explained that the payments had begun in March 2013, a month after the law graduate and model’s death.

“When Reeva passed away, they [the Steenkamp family] were in financial straits,” he said. “I conveyed this to Mr Pistorius’s lawyer. He came back with an offer of 6,000 a month for 18 months. When he started paying, we only thought it fair to make that public, but the request was from Oscar through his lawyers to keep it confidential. We honoured that request.”

Asked why they had accepted the payments, De Bruyn replied: “They needed it.”

But the payments have now stopped and will be repaid, he added, and they turned down the one-off sum. “The offer has been made and rejected. The Steenkamps don’t want any money and there will be no civil case. They want closure.”

The Steenkamps were known to have become reliant on their daughter’s earnings to cover some of their household expenses. Since her death, they have been paid for a series of interviews with Hello! magazine and other media, and June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, is set to publish a book about her experiences.

Family members of Pistorius and Steenkamp attended the second day of the trial’s sentencing hearing, which is expected to last around a week. There was an awkward moment as the sprinter brushed past his ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor, 20.

Also in the public gallery were Mikey Shultz, a self-confessed killer, Guil Yahav, a former bouncer who also faced murder charges, Jared Mortimer, who recently clashed with Pistorius in a Johannesburg nightclub, and Marc Batchelor, who has claimed Pistorius threatened to break his legs.

Pistorius, 27, was startled by the men’s presence and Arnold called for a police escort to guarantee his safety.

Earlier, Vergeer, who was hired by the defence, said the country’s jails are violent and overcrowded, with drugs, gangs, sodomy and Aids an everyday reality.

The athlete would be particularly vulnerable because of his disability and fragile mental state.

“It will not assist him but break him as a person,” she told the court. “The death of the deceased and the period since have been a far bigger punishment than incarceration. His disability and state of mind would cause his detention to be an excessive punishment with no benefits to him, society and the deceased’s family.”

Pistorius would “only deteriorate” in prison, Vergeer added. “It is virtually impossible in prison to teach a person how to become a useful member of society. There is also no facility to cater for the accused’s disability.”

Whatever guarantees the court sought to give, Vergeer continued, Pistorius’s prosthetic legs would inevitably be taken away.

“The exposure of the accused on his stumps to inmates will have a severe effect on him … How can we say Pistorius will not be a victim of gang rape?”

He would find it “extremely difficult” to walk on his stumps on concrete and slippery floors like those in prisons and would find the showers not equipped with the rails he needs.

Vergeer also said Pistorius, who in 2012 was the first amputee athlete to run at the Olympics, has the potential to be a productive member of society again.

She said Pistorius should receive a suspended sentence, house arrest, therapy and community work that could include working at a school for disabled children.

Nel challenged Vergeer’s report, saying her knowledge of the South African prison system was limited and out of date. He said the hollow-point bullets Pistorius fired just after 3am on Valentine’s day last year did “terrible” damage to Steenkamp, who was hit in the head, arm and hip.

The case continues.

Source: The Guardian UK, Tuesday, 14 October 2014



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