herald

Friday 18 August 2017

Pistorius being portrayed as the 'poor victim', court told

HEARING: Agent quizzed on motive for killer's charity work

Oscar Pistorius is being portrayed as a "poor victim" ahead of his sentencing for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a prosecutor said today.

Gerrie Nel made the remarks as he cross-examined Pistorius' agent, Peet van Zyl, on the second day of a sentencing hearing in South Africa for the double-amputee Olympic runner, who was found guilty last month of culpable homicide over the fatal shooting of the model.

Judge Thokozile Masipa has wide latitude when deciding on a sentence. Pistorius (27) could receive a fine and a suspended jail sentence or up to 15 years in prison.

SHOOTING

Mr Van Zyl was called to testify by Pistorius' defence lawyers, who are arguing that Judge Masipa should be lenient on the multiple Paralympic champion, who they say has suffered emotionally and financially after the shooting.

Mr Van Zyl testified regarding what he called Pistorius' extensive charity work before the fatal shooting of Steenkamp on February 14, 2013, and said that Pistorius had now lost all his product endorsements because of the killing.

Cross-examining Mr van Zyl in the high court in Pretoria, chief prosecutor Mr Nel said: "You view Mr Pistorius as a poor victim of this case."

Mr van Zyl denied that.

The prosecutor also questioned Pistorius' motives for getting involved in charity work, saying it was a smart career move for athletes to lend their names to good causes and that he was obligated to participate in such activities for their sponsors.

"They market themselves by being involved in charity," Mr Nel said. "It's merely an advancement of your career to become involved."

Mr van Zyl said it could be perceived that way, but added: "I think that a lot of sportsmen really want to make a difference and to contribute."

Mr Nel challenged Mr van Zyl after he said "maybe there would still have been some opportunities" for Pistorius were it not for alleged inaccuracies in media reporting on the case.

Mr van Zyl said that, since the killing, he had received some invitations asking Pistorius to address audiences and share his life story. "The legacy that he's left behind is still relevant today," he said.

The prosecutor appeared incredulous at Mr van Zyl's remarks, suggesting Pistorius' manager was blaming the media and others, including prosecutors, for the predicament of a man who had killed a young woman by firing four hollow-point bullets through a toilet door.

Judge Masipa found Pistorius not guilty of murder for shooting Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door in his home in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013.

He testified he mistook her for an intruder.

Pistorius' sentencing hearing is expected to last around a week.

hnews@herald.ie

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