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Jerome Starkey

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius was led into the cells beneath the high court in Pretoria today after he was sentenced to five years in prison for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa also sentenced him to a three-year suspended sentence for firing his pistol in a crowded Johannesburg restaurant. She said that would run concurrently.

There was no audible reaction from the athlete, his family or Miss Steenkamp’s parents, June and Barry, who were both in court to hear the sentence.

However Reeva’s mother said “It’s right” once the court was adjourned. Her father Barry leant over the bench to watch as Mr Pistorius walked down the stairwell in the middle of the court.

As she left court, Mrs Steenkamp, 68, said she thought the sentence was fair, but she said that she would never have closure “unless you can magic Reeva back”.

Pistorius had time to shake hands with his uncle Arnold and his aunt Lois.

“That’s the correct sentence I think,” said Dup de Bruyn, the Steenkamps’ lawyer. “They always said they wanted justice satisfied. That’s justice. It’s a very well considered sentence.” (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius’ brother and sister have broken their silence on the eve of his sentencing to say they never doubted his account of why he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year.

Speaking as the judge Thokozile Masipa met her two assistants today to decide the athlete’s fate, Aimee, 25, said the sprinter was a “kind person with a good heart”.

Carl, the eldest of the three, said: “There’s not an inkling of reservation…I believe what Oscar says.” (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius’ negligence bordered on murder when he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, his prosecutor said today. He should spend at least ten years in prison, the prosecutor said today.

Lawyers for the athlete had urged Judge Thokozile Masipa to put him under house arrest, in the interests of “restorative justice”. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

The head of South Africa’s prison service has promised that Oscar Pistorius would get special treatment if he is jailed next week for shooting dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Zach Modise told the High Court that the athlete would be held in a prison hospital, after his lawyers warned that a prison gangster had already vowed to kill him.

Barry Roux, for the defence, said that Khalil Subjee, the leader of the infamous 26s Gang, who is known as “the general”, had said Pistorius would be “taken out”.

Mr Modise admitted that his jails were overcrowded and gangs had “run amok”, but he said that Pistorius would be kept apart from the 7,000 inmates inside Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius “must pay” for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the model’s cousin told his trial today.

It was the first time during his sentencing hearing that the court heard testimony which explicitly called for a long custodial sentence.

Kim Martins, who remembered holding Miss Steenkamp as a baby and grew up with her in Cape Town, said the punishment should fit the crime.

“My family are not people who are seeking revenge,” she said. “We just feel that to take someone’s life, to shoot someone behind a door that is unarmed, that is harmless, needs sufficient punishment.” (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, in Pretoria

Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin was overcome with tears yesterday as she revealed the heartache and the devastation that the model’s death had caused her family.

In heart-rending testimony at the Pretoria High Court, Kim Martin said the family had been “ruined” when Oscar Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

“Why Reeva?” Ms Martin, who was 12 years older than her cousin, asked.

The moment Ms Martin heard the news was, she said, “the end of the world”. She added: “It was the worst experience I have ever ever been through.” She told the court of a conversation a few weeks before she died in which Ms Steenkamp had hinted at having niggling doubts about her relationship with the Paralympic sprinter.

Speaking at the athlete’s sentencing hearing, where both sides can call witnesses to influence his punishment, Ms Martin said that she thought Pistorius was shy and “a nice person” when they met in Cape Town last year, but she “didn’t notice much affection” between him and Ms Steenkamp. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Reeva Steenkamp’s parents have rejected an offer of £21,000 from the Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius.

A lawyer for Ms Steenkamp’s family said her parents, June and Barry, had already accepted 18 monthly payments of 6,000 rand (£340) each from their daughter’s killer, because they were in dire financial straights after she died on Valentine’s Day last year. However, they rejected a one-off offer of R375,000 rand (£21,000), after Pistorius sold his car, and have pledged to repay “every cent” of the monthly stipend.

Details of the payments emerged at the athlete’s sentencing hearing yesterday, where a probation officer said Pistorius would have his prosthetic legs confiscated and be at risk of being gang-raped if he was sent to one of South Africa’s squalid, crowded prisons. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Oscar Pistorius would be stripped of his legs and at risk of gang rape in one of South Africa’s squalid, overcrowded prisons, a probation officer told his sentencing hearing today.

Annette Vergeer, who was called by the athlete’s defence team, said prison would “break him as a person”.

She said the Paralympian sprinter, who was convicted of culpable homicide for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, would be “unable to defend himself within a prison environment”.

Her report to the High Court in Pretoria also revealed that Pistorius has been paying June and Barry Steenkamp, the parents of his late girlfriend, a former model turned TV-presenter. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Oscar Pistorius could be sentenced to just three years’ house arrest for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, his murder trial heard today.

A psychologist said that Pistorius was unlikely ever to recover from the mental trauma of killing the woman he loved, but the prosecution said that such a sentence would be “shockingly inappropriate”.

The paralympic sprinter, who was convicted of culpable homicide but acquitted of the more serious charge of premeditated murder, has been living with his uncle in Pretoria since he shot Miss Steenkamp dead on Valentine’s Day last year.

Joel Maringa, a social worker attached to South Africa’s Department of Corrections, told the high court in Pretoria that the sprinter could be confined to a house, but still allowed to train.

“That would be no sentence, because that is what professional athletes do,” said Gerrie Nel, for the prosectuion.

He accused Mr Maringa of failing to understand the seriousness of Pistorius’ crime. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Oscar Pistorius’ lawyers will argue that he should not go to prison when his murder trial resumes for sentencing tomorrow. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

President Kenyatta of Kenya made history yesterday with the dubious distinction of becoming the first sitting head of state to appear before the International Criminal Court, where his lawyers called for charges against him of crimes against humanity to be thrown out.

The son of Kenya’s founding president is accused of fuelling the post-election violence which left more than 1,100 people dead and forced 600,000 to flee their homes six years ago. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Kenya has refused to hand over crucial pieces of evidence, including phone records and bank statements, that could help to convict its president, Uhuru Kenyatta, of crimes against humanity, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court said yesterday.

Ben Gumpert, senior prosecutor, asked a panel of three judges to rule that Kenya had stopped co-operating, a day before President Kenyatta appears in The Hague. “The Kenyan government is not going to give us what we are asking for,” he said. “[The court] should make a finding of non-compliance on the part of the government of Kenya.”

Such a ruling would plunge the court into uncharted legal territory and be likely to strain relations between Kenya and the West to breaking point.

As a defendant, accused of fuelling the post-election violence in 2007 and 2008, Mr Kenyatta is not obliged to do anything to incriminate himself. However, his government is a signatory to the Rome Statute, on which the ICC is founded, so it is expected to comply with the court’s requests. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

As the international community scrambles to stem the spread of ebola in west Africa, Britain, America and France appear to be resurrecting old colonial ties.

According to the United Nations, more than 30 countries and more than 20 companies or philanthropic foundations have pledged $387 million (£242 million) to contain and eradicate the world’s most deadly outbreak.

That figure does not include President Obama’s pledge to send 3,000 soldiers and build 17 isolation wards, in a deployment worth roughly $750 million. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

An American cameraman who filmed horrific scenes as ebola left its victims dead in the streets and ditches of west Africa is among the latest to contract the virus.

Ashoka Mukpo, a freelance reporter, described in recent days how Liberia’s health system had collapsed under the strain of the outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people in the region.

Hospital wards are littered with corpses and buckets of vomit, victims are left neglected in the dirt outside for hours and health staff have also succumbed to the virus.

Mukpo, 33, was working for the American network NBC when he started to feel sick on Wednesday night. He went to an isolation ward run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), where he tested positive on Thursday. (Read more…)

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent

Almost 100 members of Nigeria’s armed forces faced a court martial yesterday, accused of mutiny and cowardice, as their colleagues struggle to defeat a brutal Islamist insurgency which has turned parts of the country into a warzone. (Read more…)