Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide in the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after a trial that was followed live around the world.There was a sharp intake of breath in Pretoria High Court as Judge Thokozile Masipa asked him to stand for her verdict.She said the athlete acted "negligently" when he fired shots but in the "belief that there was an intruder". Judge Masipa added that the state had failed to prove that he intended to kill Reeva.
The verdict was as expected after she dismissed the more serious charge of murder on Thursday. The once world-revered athlete looked stunned but remained calm after spending most of the previous day's proceedings in tears.When she called for a five-minute break Oscar embraced his sister Aimee and they appeared to be praying. He has been ordered to remain on bail until sentencing on 13 October.Reeva's father Barry Steenkamp looked dismayed but resigned at the outcome. Also in court was his daughter's best friend Gina Myers who broke down in tears.
Under South African law there is no jury system and the judge reached her decision assisted by two assessors, lawyers who provided an extra set of eyes and ears.The verdict is roughly equivalent to a manslaughter charge in English law.The model and law gradutate was 29 when she was killed.For months the High Court in Pretoria has been gripped by distressing details from the 2013 Valentine's Day date that went horribly wrong.
Much of the evidence was simply too harrowing for Reeva's mother June: she chose not to attend key days of the trial or left court for the most difficult testimony. In the run up to the case her husband suffered two strokes brought on by stress and waited until the closing stages to attend.Their daughter arrived on February 13 to spend the night in her boyfriend's house in the city's gated Silverwoods Country Estate. She had been dating Oscar since the previous November and they appeared very much in love.He denied murdering her after a heated row – a defence the judge accepted, saying: "It cannot be said that the accused did not entertain a genuine belief that there was an intruder".The sprinter was also found guilty of an unrelated firearms charge – negligently handling a gun that went off in a crowded restaurant. However, he was acquitted of another charge of firing a gun in public, through the sunroof of a car.
Beyond the forensic and ballistics evidence the key issue was really the credibility of the athlete, who had become a poster boy for the Paralympian movement.He was born without fibulas, which are bones between the knees and ankles, and had his lower limbs amputated at 11 months. With the encouragement of his parents, who always downplayed his disability, the athlete went on to entrance the world with his speed, grace and seeming affability.Oscar won gold at the 2004 Athens Paralympics aged 17 and yet more medals at the Games of 2008 and 2012. Now that glittering career is over and he faces up to 15 years in prison.