Oscar Pistorius trial: Steenkamps ‘rejected blood money’

Athlete Oscar Pistorius offered a large cash sum to the parents of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after he killed her – but it was rejected as “blood money”, a South African court has heard.

Pistorius’s offer of $34,000 (£21,000) was revealed by prosecutor Gerrie Nel during his sentencing hearing.

Earlier, a defence witness told the court that Pistorius would be physically at risk if sent to prison.

He has been found guilty of culpable homicide, but cleared of murder.

The defence is trying to show that prison would be an inappropriate punishment.

Pistorius’ offer of a lump sum of 375,000 rand to the Steenkamp family emerged on the second day of his sentencing hearing, during the cross-examination of defence witness Annette Vergeer.

Mr Nel told Ms Vergeer that Pistorius raised the funds from selling his car.

The prosecutor added that Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, had rejected the offer. “She does not want blood money,” he said.

He also highlighted separate monthly payments of 6,000 rand (£340; $540) made by Pistorius to the Steenkamps – who were short of money after their daughter’s death.

Mr Nel said these funds – mentioned in Ms Vergeer’s report – would be “paid back to the accused in full – every cent.”

Analysis: Andrew Harding, BBC News, Pretoria

What constitutes “blood money?” That question surfaced in court when it was revealed that Oscar Pistorius has been making monthly payments to Reeva Steenkamp’s parents.

The couple’s lawyer confirmed that he had approached the Pistoriuses some 18 months ago, asking for support because Barry and June Steenkamp were broke. It seems their daughter had been supporting them prior to her death.

But earlier in court, Prosecutor Gerrie Nel scathingly described a separate lump-sum offer of 375,000 rand, made by the athlete as “blood money”.

So what is the different between refusing a lump sum and accepting a monthly payment – in moral terms? Clearly issues of need, timing, emotion, and the ebb and flow of the trial process itself must come into play.

But in the meantime the Steenkamps have now announced that they will not be pursuing any civil case against the man who killed their daughter, and will repay “every cent” of the money Pistorius has already given them.

‘At risk’

The Steenkamps’ lawyer, Dup De Bruyn, explained that the couple were now “reasonably comfortable” after he had negotiated a series of media deals concerning their daughter’s death.

The Pistorius family later accused Mr Nel of giving a distorted picture in court of the financial agreement with the Steenkamps, and said they would provide a full statement on Wednesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Vergeer – a probation officer paid for her defence work – said that without legs Pistorius would be “a lot more vulnerable than the normal man”.

She added that she had recently handled the case of an inmate who had been sexually assaulted in prison. “How can we say that he won’t be exposed to that?”

“There is also no facility to cater for the accused’s disability.”

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel suggested to Ms Vergeer’s that her information about conditions in South African prisons were second-hand and outdated.

Speaking fees

Early on Tuesday, the proceedings centred on Pistorius’ charity work.

Cross-examining one of the athlete’s managers, Peet Van Zyl, Mr Nel said sportsmen often took on such work for pragmatic reasons.

Later he questioned whether Pistorius had used his own funds to pay for prosthetics for disadvantaged young people.

However, Mr Van Zyl insisted that the athlete had asked for his speaking fees to be paid not to himself but to charity.

The athlete’s manager also said that while Pistorius had contractual obligations to his sponsors, he “went the extra mile” for disabled children.

The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Pretoria says Mr Nel has been trying to show Pistorius as a self-interested, corporate client rather than a selfless volunteer.

The Paralympic sprinter denied murdering Ms Steenkamp after a row on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he shot her by mistake.

He faces up to 15 years in jail, although the judge may suspend the sentence or impose a fine.

On Monday, a defence witness suggested Pistorius not be sent to prison but be sentenced to house arrest or community service.

Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, was hit three times by bullets shot through a toilet door by Pistorius at his home in the capital, Pretoria.

The sentencing hearing is expected to last several days.

 

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