JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – The families of “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius and the woman he killed have accepted the decision by South African prosecutors to press for a murder conviction and a harsher sentence for the athlete.
Pistorius began a five-year prison stretch on October 21 after being found guilty of culpable homicide, a charge equivalent to manslaughter, for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Prosecutors announced on Monday they would appeal both the verdict and the sentence handed down after a sensational eight-month trial which put an enormous emotional strain on both families.
“We take note of the state’s announcement. The law must take its course,” the athlete’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said in a terse statement Tuesday.
The uncle of Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius’s girlfriend until he killed her on Valentine’s Day 2013, said he was happy with the move if was going to be beneficial to society.
“If it’s in the interest of society… then I think they should go forward if they think it’s correct,” Michael Steenkamp told AFP.
Pistorius admitted shooting Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door at his upmarket Pretoria home, but said he believed he was firing at an intruder and she was safely in bed.
Prosecutors said he deliberately killed her after an argument, but trial judge Thokozile Masipa found the 27-year-old Paralympic and Olympic athlete not guilty of murder.
Legal experts say the prosecution is likely to appeal against the judge’s interpretation and application of the principle of dolus eventualis – awareness of the likely outcome of an action – when she acquitted the sprinter of the murder charge.
Prosecutors expect to file the appeal papers “within the next few days”, according National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube.