South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals has found former Olympian Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, overturning a lower court’s lesser conviction of culpable homicide.
Pistorius, 29, a double amputee known as “Blade Runner,” claimed he shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through the locked door of his bathroom on Valentine’s Day in 2013 because he believed she was an intruder.
Judge Eric Leach called the circumstances surrounding the death of Steenkamp, who was shot four times, “a human tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.”
After a lengthy trial, Pistorius was handed a five-year sentence for the previous conviction of culpable homicide, which is equivalent to manslaughter. Pistorius was paroled less than a year into his time served and in October was placed under house arrest.
The more severe conviction carries a minimum sentence of 15 years.
The appeals court, in looking at the form of intent in a person’s actions, or “dolus eventualis,” said in its decision on Thursday that Pistorius should have anticipated that by shooting through that door, he would be causing a death, according to reports.
“I have no doubt … the accused must have foreseen and therefore did foresee that whoever was behind that door might die,” Leach said while reading the ruling, calling the original court judgement “fundamentally flawed.”
“The identity of victim is irrelevant to his guilt,” Leach said.
The new conviction was bittersweet for Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, who said on TODAY that the upgraded charges were deserved but do nothing to bring back her daughter.
“I want respect for my daughter’s life and that’s what I got today (with) the conviction of murder,” June Steenkamp said. “This is the result now of investigation and the justice system. And I feel so proud now that she’s got some respect and she hasn’t lost her life for nothing. She’ll be remembered.”
The number of years that Pistorius serves for the murder is inconsequential for June Steenkamp, who said she wasn’t interested in vengeance.
“It doesn’t really matter the amount of time, it’s got nothing to do with me. It won’t make any difference to my life… Reeva won’t come back. She’s gone now. And I don’t want revenge against him, but he’s going to pay for his crime. That’s all. That’s all it amounts to.”
Pistorius reached out to the Steenkamp family to offer a meeting as part of his previous parole’s conditions, but June Steenkamp said she was unsure if she will ever speak to her daughter’s killer again.
“I think all I would say, is to explain to him what he’s taken away from her. Her life, her career, her wedding, her child, and that’s what he’s taken away. And he’s taken away all the joy in my husband and our life… that’s all I would want to say.”
The Guardian reported the Pistorius family acknowledged the judgment, saying in a statement: ”We have taken note of the judgment that has just been handed down by the supreme court of appeal. The legal team will study the finding and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward.”
They declined to comment any further.
Pistorius will likely return to court for his resentencing sometime next year. He is expected to remain under house arrest until then.