South Africa’s one-time sports hero Oscar Pistorius has been convicted of murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal, following the most publicised trial in the country’s history.
Justice Eric Leach read out a unanimous verdict from the panel of five judges, overturning the ruling of trial Judge Thokozile Masipa, who had acquitted him of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Masipa convicted him of the lesser crime of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, after accepting the Olympic and Paralympic athlete’s claim that he did not intend to kill, and he had mistaken his girlfriend for a burglar.
Here are the key quotes from Justice Leach’s ruling:
“This case involves a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions: a young man overcomes huge physical disabilities to reach Olympian heights as an athlete; in doing so he becomes an international celebrity; he meets a young woman of great natural beauty and a successful model; romance blossoms; and then, ironically on Valentine’s Day, all is destroyed when he takes her life.”
“As so often happens with romantic relationships, especially in their youthful stages, theirs was attended by petty conflict and tensions as evidenced by a transcript of text messages that had passed between them that was handed in as an exhibit at the trial. But despite these hiccups, the deceased at times slept over at the accused’s home.”
“Although he may have been anxious, it is inconceivable that a rational person could have believed he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy-calibre firearm, without taking even that most elementary precaution of firing a warning shot, which the accused said he elected not to fire as he thought the ricochet might harm him.
“The accused must have foreseen and, therefore, did foresee that whoever was behind the toilet door might die, but reconciled himself to that event occurring and gambled with that person’s life.”
On whether there was an intruder:
“The identity of his victim is irrelevant to his guilt.
“A person who causes a bomb to explode in a crowded place will probably be ignorant of the identity of his or her victims, but will nevertheless have the intention to kill those who might die in the resultant explosion.”
“The trial judge conducted the hearing with a degree of dignity and patience that is a credit to the judiciary. The fact that this court has determined that certain mistakes were made should not be seen as an adverse comment upon her competence and ability.”BBC