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Sunday 20 August 2017

Reeva's parents rejected 'blood money'

Oscar Pistorius looks straight ahead in court in Pretoria after he was found guilty of culpable homicide in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp (AP)
Oscar Pistorius looks straight ahead in court in Pretoria after he was found guilty of culpable homicide in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp (AP)
Oscar Pistorius arrives at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa (AP)
June Steenkamp. Photo: Getty
Oscar Pistorius is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius arrives at the High Court in Pretoria, where his trial continues (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Oscar Pistorius offered 375,000 South African rand (€26,835) to the family of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after he killed her, but they rejected it because they did not want "blood money", the double-amputee athlete's sentencing hearing has been told.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel also referred to separate monthly payments of 6,000 rand (€429) that Pistorius apparently made to Ms Steenkamp's parents after they asked for help. Mr Nel said those payments would be returned in full.

The revelations emerged while Mr Nel was cross-examining a social worker over what Pistorius' punishment should be for shooting his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2013.

Annette Vergeer told the court in Pretoria that the Olympic and Paralympic runner should be placed under house arrest, rather than sent to prison, after he was found guilty of culpable homicide.

Duress

Ms Vergeer, one of four witnesses called by the defence, said South African jails are violent and overcrowded, and that the double amputee would be under duress because of his disability and fragile mental state resulting from the night he fired four times through a toilet door in his home, killing Ms Steenkamp.

Pistorius (27) claimed he mistook her for an intruder, and denied prosecution assertions that he shot her during an argument.

Ms Vergeer also said that Pistorius has the potential to be a productive member of society again.

A sentence of house arrest and work at a school for disabled children would be more appropriate, she said.

Prison "will not assist him, but will break him as a person", she said.

Mr Nel challenged Ms Vergeer, saying her knowledge of the South African prison system was limited and out of date.

He also asked why she did not mention in her report on Pistorius that she knew the family of the woman he killed had turned down money.

Outside the courtroom, a lawyer for Ms Steenkamp's parents said they had asked him to contact Pistorius' legal team weeks after the shooting because they were struggling financially.

Confidential

Pistorius offered them monthly payments and asked for them to be kept confidential, the Steenkamps' lawyer Dup de Bruyn said.

Ms Steenkamp's mother June referred to the other offer of 375,000 rand that the family rejected as "blood money", and asked prosecutor Mr Nel to call it that in court, Mr de Bruyn said.

Judge Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius not guilty of murder last month.

hnews@herald.ie

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