Oscar Pistorius offered $34,000 (€26,857) to the family of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after he killed her, but the family rejected the funds because they did not want "blood money", a prosecutor said at the sentencing hearing for the double-amputee athlete.
Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel also referred to separate payments of $550 that the Pistorius camp apparently made on a monthly basis to Steenkamp’s family, but said those would be paid back in full.
The revelations emerged while Nel was cross-examining a social worker who testified that Pistorius should be placed under house arrest, rather than sent to prison, after his conviction for culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter here.
Social worker Annette Vergeer, one of four witnesses called by the defence, said South African jails are violent and overcrowded and that the athlete would be under particular duress because of his disability and fragile mental state resulting from the night when he fired four times through a toilet door in his home, killing Steenkamp. Pistorius testified he mistook her for an intruder about to attack him and denied he shot her during an argument.
Vergeer said that Pistorius has the potential to be a productive member of society again. A sentence of house arres, including periods of 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. “The exposure of the accused on his stumps to inmates will have a severe effect on him.”
Nel challenged Vergeer, saying her knowledge of the South African prison system was limited and out of date. He asked why she did no’t mention in her report on Pistorius that she knew the family of the woman he killed turned down a money offer. Nel also suggested that the offer indicated Pistorius, who lost lucrative international sponsorships after he killed Steenkamp, had significant funds at his disposal even though his defence team has said his resources had dwindled.
Judge Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius not guilty of murder for shooting Steenkamp, concluding that he acted hastily and with excessive force, but did not intend to kill Steenkamp. The judge has wide latitude when deciding on a sentence. Pistorius, 27, could receive a fine and a suspended jail term or as many as 15 years in prison for manslaughter.
Vergeer and another social worker called to testify by defence lawyers recommended that Pistorius be given a three-year correctional supervision sentence, which would place him under house arrest for periods and require him to do community service. Prosecutors insist that would be inappropriate and say Pistorius should be sent to prison, citing the level of negligence he showed on the night of the killing when he grabbed his 9mm pistol and fired four times through the door without checking who was behind it.
Chief prosecutor Nel said the hollow-point bullets Pistorius used in the pre-dawn hours of February 14, 2013 did “terrible” damage to Steenkamp.
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