Pistorius 'can't get away with this', Steenkamp's cousin tells court

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 16, 2014 5:12 AM

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius needs to go to jail for the killing of his 29-year-old girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day last year, a cousin of the slain model told a South African court on Thursday.

"I feel we need to send a message to society that you can't get away with this," a tear-choked Kim Martins said in her second day of testimony at Pistorius' sentencing hearing.

Judge Thokokzile Maispa cut short the previous day's proceedings after Martins broke down on the stand, overwhelmed with emotion as she described the Steenkamps' "ruined" family life after Reeva's death.

"My family is not seeking revenge, but he shot someone behind a door, unarmed, harmless," Martins said. "It needs sufficient punishment."

Pistorius' defense has been fighting to keep the 27-year-old double-amputee out of jail, citing his disability as one reason why he should be allowed to serve any punishment outside South Africa's notoriously violent and overcrowded prisons.

Earlier in the sentencing hearing, a defense witness recommended Pistorius serve three years of house arrest combined with community service.

Pistorius, one of the biggest names in world athletics, was last month convicted of culpable homicide - South Africa's equivalent of manslaughter - for killing Steenkamp by firing four shots through a locked toilet door.

Pistorius said it was a tragic mistake, and that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

Culpable homicide in South Africa is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in the most serious cases, or by a suspended sentence, house arrest and community service in lighter ones.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Cropley and Dominic Evans)