Reeva Steenkamp’s sister has watched with growing disbelief as Oscar Pistorius’s lawyers insist he deserves special treatment.
Day after day, as the Olympian’s defence team demanded house arrest instead of jail for the shooting of his model girlfriend, community service instead of hard labour, Simone Cowburn waited for sense to prevail.
Now, however, she is deeply worried. Following almost a week of legal argument, the 49-year-old fears the judge has been swayed by Pistorius’s highly paid legal team.
Because she did not have had the chance to appear in court, Simone is now making a deeply personal plea to Judge Thokozile Masipa: hand down a heavy prison sentence to show violence against women will not be tolerated and to show that disability should not result in a softer punishment.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Ms Cowburn says: ‘Oscar deserves prison. How can he just stay in the luxury of his house after taking somebody’s life. What is house arrest if not just wrong?
‘Community service and house arrest are ridiculous. These should be for people who are stealing or other minor offences. Not shooting somebody. Reeva deserves justice.
‘This case will set a precedent all around the world. We do not want other men to get off just because Oscar Pistorius has. It is still homicide.
‘If a man steals a block of cheese here, he can get 20 years and that is for theft. But if you take somebody’s life like Oscar has, you can get house arrest. It is not right. He has got to do time. It is hard to say how long he should get. Ten or twenty years or whatever.’
Simone, who was born in Britain and moved from her home in Cambridgeshire to care for her parents in the aftermath of Reeva’s death, is particularly concerned that Pistorius’s disability is being exploited. The 27-year-old ‘blade runner’ had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was 11-months old after being born without a fibula, the main bone in the lower leg.
‘I don’t think much of the story of him being disabled and that there is no room for disability in prison and that he must get house arrest
‘It is not right. He has been on bail since the shooting. He has been free to go anywhere he wants… chatting up other women.
‘He went into the Olympics and competed against other [able-bodied] athletes and he shouldn’t use his disability as an excuse now. He should be punished like any other able bodied person. He shouldn’t be given privileges now.
‘[Are they saying that] if you are missing an arm or a leg or whatever, you don’t go to jail? They should put him in a wheelchair. There are people with disabilities in prison.
‘I was in court and he showed no remorse whatsoever. The crying, the vomiting and all that type of thing were because he realises he has done wrong, but I believe it was all an act.’
Pistorius killed his model girlfriend Reeva, 29, by firing at her four times as she cowered inside a locked bathroom in his multimillion house on Valentine’s Day last year. He insisted throughout the 48-day trial that he shot his girlfriend of three months by accident fearing an intruder had entered his home as they slept.
He was found guilty of culpable homicide on September 12 but was cleared of murder, and will be sentenced in Pretoria tomorrow. As there is no minimum sentence for culpable homicide, the judge could decide to give Pistorius a suspended sentence, which he could serve at home. This could then be cancelled if he passes a probation period.
June Steenkamp has been in court to for the 48-day trial of Oscar Pistorius, but the Olympian has asked for a lenient community service punishment instead of jail
June Steenkamp and her husband Barry have spoken of their distress at being forced to watch the details of their daughter’s death. Now daughter Simone has said the family want a jail sentence for Pistorius.
Community service is another option but chief prosecutor Gerrie Nell has attacked this as ‘shockingly inappropriate’. Legal experts suggest the maximum prison sentence Pistorius could receive is 15 years but believe this is unlikely – partly because of persuasive arguments his legal team have made that his disability and psychological weakness will make him a target of South Africa’s violent jail gangs.
Probation officer Annette Vergeer, who was paid by the defence, told the court that prison would ‘break him’. ‘His disability and state of mind would cause his detention to be an excessive punishment with no benefits to him, society and the deceased’s family,’ she said.
But such claims make Simone’s blood boil. She is incandescent at the suggestion that Pistorius’s prosthetic legs afford him a protection that Reeva, was never given, and remains convinced that her little sister was the victim of murder, despite the lack of evidence and judgment of the court.
‘It has been so gruelling… it looks like might get off. That is wrong. It is sending out utterly the wrong message.
‘Reeva should have been the first person he thought of if there was an intruder. Why didn’t he just grab her and get out of the house if the so-called intruder was in the bathroom?
‘He had security there and they could have run out and he could have told them. It all doesn’t make sense. So as far as I am concerned, he knew she was in there. It is all lies.
‘He lost his temper and shot her. He wanted to own her, but he couldn’t. She was very independent.
‘I am in still in shock that he got off.
‘He fired the first shot, stopped and then realised he had to shoot again to finish it.’
‘Reeva was shot once while she was standing by the door and then he waited and shot three more bullets.
‘Why did he pause? He obviously realised ‘Ok, I have to kill her now’. It is heartbreaking.
‘People say they may have heard Oscar’s voice saying ‘help, help’, but I think that was to taunt her. Reeva would have been screaming.
‘Even if it had been a burglar, he had no right to shoot through that door with those bullets. You wouldn’t even shoot an animal with those bullets.
‘These type of incidents have to stop. I believe Oscar was guilty of domestic violence at its most extreme.’
Both Simone and her mother, June, are committed to founding a shelter for women who suffer from domestic violence in Reeva’s name and she believes that the judge has a responsibility to make a strong statement against it.
‘My message to the judge is that she should think about this very carefully because it is going to affect the whole world, especially South Africa.
‘If she makes the wrong decision and the sentence is too lenient, she will be opening the door for any man anywhere in the world to shoot his wife or girlfriend and say it was an intruder, just like Oscar.
‘The trial of Oscar Pistorius should be sending a message out for men to understand that if somebody doesn’t want to be with them, they should let them go.
‘I believe Reeva was going to leave him. He wanted to own her and she was not that kind of person.’
She said Oscar’s new found celebrity status went to his head and fuelled his arrogance.
‘I find some South African men, not all of them but a lot of them, are very jealous. Reeva was very independent because our mother brought us up that way and to understand the meaning of love.
‘If Oscar was here in front of me now I’d ask him why he couldn’t just let her go and move on.’
Simone was born in Blackburn, England, to mother June and her first husband. Brought up a staunch Christian, when June married Barry, moving the family to South Africa and having and baby Reeva, Simone doted on her. She made her bridesmaid at her wedding and Reeva was a devoted aunt to Simone’s two sons, Nicholas, 27, who lives in Dubai and Chris,28, an MA student in London.
‘Reeva was so loving… whenever I came to Port Elizabeth, she would meet me at the airport and she would be jumping up and down in excitement. We were very close despite the 18-year age difference.
‘She was always telling me she loved me. That is how we were brought up, a very close family. I used to baby sit her all the time. She was so cute and I used to get told off by our mother because I would take her out of her cot.’
Stunning Reeva Steenkamp had completed a law degree and was on the cusp of model stardom, having appeared in reality show Tropika Island of Treasure filmed on Jamaica.
Reeva’s parents June and Barry Steenkamp brought the family up to be Christians and have tried not to be bitter about their daughter’s death. They are now establishing a domestic violence shelter in her name
An HR worker with Porsche in Cambridgeshire until last year, Simone now runs the family’s bar in Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape. She is clinging to her faith – like the rest of the family – in the face of this tragedy but feels they are being sorely tested. A ‘soft’ punishment tomorrow would be a blow the Steenkamps cannot withstand.
‘I am a Christian and I try not to be bitter. But watching what my parents have gone through has been very hard. It has destroyed my family. We are closer than ever, but it will never be the same again.
‘He has never come over to us and said sorry to us as a family in court because he knows he is guilty.
‘When he came past us he almost tripped trying not to face us and I think he got a shock seeing us sitting there. I went for a cigarette during the break and he was right next to me and was just nonchalant. He was just carrying on as if it was a show and not a trial.
‘He has destroyed two families, ours and his and he must go away and he must feel the punishment. He has got to go to jail. How do we know that he is not going to do it again?’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2799799/reeva-s-sister-pleads-judge-jail-pistorius-twenty-years-asks-disabled-people-softer-sentences.html#ixzz3GglHF9Yz
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