Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria
“If you could read our minds,” lamented Reeva Steenkamp’s uncle as he left the high court in Pretoria yesterday, “then you’d have a story.”
Terse and typically restrained, his comments were in stark contrast to Oscar Pistorius’s histrionics, with the athlete sobbing and vomiting through large parts of his trial.
Michael Steenkamp only hinted at his family’s anguish, after they had watched the track star being cleared of first and second-degree murder, but be convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter and allowed to walk free, for at least another month.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” a cousin said.
Ms Steenkamp’s parents, June and Barry, sat stony-faced on the relatives’ bench as the verdict was read out. The publicans, from the Eastern Cape, have sold the rights to interviews, and Dup de Bruyn, their lawyer, said they were contractually obliged to make no other comment until four weeks after sentencing, which is not due to start until October 13.
Yet Michael Steenkamp’s comments touched on a conundrum at the centre of the case: mind-reading is impossible. With only one surviving witness to the events in Pistorius’s house, he was the only person who could tell the court what happened.
Judge Masipa made that point when she pronounced her verdict. Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, made that point when he opened his case on March 3. The one person he most wanted to interview was dead.
He produced neighbours who heard blood-curdling screams, a woman who heard an argument the night Ms Steenkamp died; Gert Saayman, a pathologist, said there was food in Ms Steenkamp’s stomach that did not tally with the athlete’s account; there were inconsistencies between Pistorius’s account and the position of objects in his bedroom — but in the end, none of that mattered.
When it came to the murder charge, all that really mattered was what Pistorius was thinking at the moment that he pulled the trigger. (Read more…)