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Now Oscar Pistorius is a murderer

Court rules athlete will serve longer term in jail

By PA Reporters

Published 04/12/2015

Reeva and Pistorius in 2012
Reeva and Pistorius in 2012
June Steenkamp (centre), the mother of Reeva Steenkamp, is comforted as appeals court Judge Leach delivers his verdict

A South African appeals court has convicted Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction of the double-amputee Olympian on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to death in 2013.

Justice Lorimer Eric Leach of the Supreme Court of Appeal delivered the ruling by the five-judge tribunal in Bloemfontein and directed the trial court, the North Gauteng High Court, to impose sentence.

He did not specify when that should happen.

The former track star is currently under house arrest at his uncle's mansion in Pretoria.

"The accused ought to have been found guilty of murder on the basis that he had fired the fatal shots with criminal intent," the judge told the courtroom, in which Ms Steenkamp's mother sat.

A 15-year prison sentence is the minimum punishment for murder in South Africa. However, the law allows for a lesser sentence to be imposed in exceptional circumstances.

Pistorius was placed under house arrest in October after serving one year in prison. He had been sentenced to five years for manslaughter.

The trial court can also consider whether he should be shown leniency because he is disabled and a first-time offender.

Pistorius (29) killed Steenkamp in the early morning of Valentine's Day. He insisted he thought she was an intruder behind the door of a toilet cubicle in his home. The prosecution said Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp during an argument.

Justice Leach said regardless of who might have been behind the door, Pistorius should have known someone could be killed if he fired.

"The identity of his victim is irrelevant to his guilt," the judge added.

Under the concept of 'dolus eventualis' in South African law, a person can be convicted of murder if they foresaw the possibility of someone dying through their actions and went ahead anyway.

Reeva Steenkamp's mother June sat quietly in the courtroom during the announcement, which was shown live on television. Pistorius was not there.

The former athlete's family said in a statement that it had taken note of the judgment.

"The legal team will study the finding and we will be guided by them in terms of options going forward," the statement added.

A date for Pistorius's new sentencing will be announced in the city of Pretoria, where he had been tried and imprisoned.

On Tuesday journalists got a look at his former cell during a tour of a maximum security prison.

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