SOUTH AFRICA — Reeva Steenkamp “can now rest in peace,” her family said Friday, after a South African high court more than doubled Oscar Pistorius’ sentence for her killing.
The nation’s Supreme Court of Appeal increased his sentence to 13 years and five months for the murder of his girlfriend, Steenkamp. It issued the ruling after the prosecution appealed his previous sentence of six years as too lenient.
The former Olympic and Paralympic sprinter killed Steenkamp at his home in an upscale Pretoria neighborhood on Valentine’s Day in 2013 — an act he says was an accident after he mistook her for an intruder. The prosecution called it a deliberate act after the two had an argument.
The court’s decision is “justice for Reeva,” her family’s spokeswoman said, adding that they hope “this is the end of the road and that everyone can move forward.”
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has argued that Pistorius’ sentence was “shockingly lenient” while the defense has said the appeal for a higher sentence should be dismissed.
Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said Pistorius failed to explain in multiple court hearings why he fired the fatal shots and … “does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.”
“I find it difficult on the evidence to accept that the respondent is genuinely remorseful,” Seriti wrote in his decision.
Seriti said the facts of the case demand a higher sentence.
“The sentence of six years’ imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivializing this serious offense,” he added.
The legal fight
Pistorius was initially convicted of manslaughter in 2014 after months of hearings, but a higher court changed that to murder a year later.
The judge surprised many when she initially sentenced Pistorius to five years. The minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years, but individual judges can lower the sentence if there are “substantial and compelling” reasons to do so.
During Pistorius’ initial sentencing, the judge cited mitigating circumstances for the lesser punishment, saying Pistorius was genuinely remorseful and a good candidate for rehabilitation.
She described him as a “fallen hero” who will never be at peace when sentencing him to six years in prison.
Prosecutors had appealed Pistorius’ sentence in the past but a lower court judge rejected their request for a harsher sentence in 2016.
From hero to killer
Stunned fans wondered how the celebrated former Olympian and Paralympic gold medalist turned into a killer.
Pistorius was the so-called “Fastest Man on No Legs,” and his inspiring story captured the imagination of the world at the 2012 London Olympics.
Born with a congenital abnormality, Pistorius had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday, but through sheer determination excelled in world-class athletics.
In 2012, he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied runners at the London Olympics, adding to his fame as the “Blade Runner,” a reference to his carbon fiber prosthetic legs.
While he failed to win a medal, Pistorius’ presence on the track was hailed as a triumph over adversity and a victory over critics who claimed his blades gave him an unfair advantage over the able-bodied.