The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Thursday found that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of murdering Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Eric Leach announced that the state’s appeal in the Oscar Pistorius case was successful.
“Guilty of murder, with the accused having criminal intent,” Leach told the court. “The matter is referred back to the trial court to consider an appropriate sentence.”
The court found in favour of the state in two of the three questions of law reserved by the high court to be determined by the SCA.
It found that the principles of dolus eventualis were incorrectly applied by the high court.
Pistorius, 29, shot and killed his girlfriend Steenkamp, who was 29, through a locked door in his Pretoria home on February 14 2013.
He claimed he fired the four fatal shots through the door of the toilet in the bathroom adjoining his bedroom believing that there was an intruder inside and that his life and that of Steenkamp were in danger.
The appeal court also found that the high court failed to take into account all the evidence. It said the failure to take into account the evidence of police ballistics expert Major Chris Mangena must be regarded as an error of law.
June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, sat in the front bench of the public gallery to hear the outcome. She was hugged by longtime friend Jenny Strydom after the verdict. She smiled as she left the court..
Leach referred the case back to the Pretoria high court for sentence to be considered afresh.
Pistorius was sentenced to a five-year prison term in October last year but was released into correctional supervision this year after spending close to one year in prison.
He could now face 15 years in prison. This is the prescribed minimum sentence for murder but a lesser sentence can be imposed if there are compelling circumstances to do so.
Leach said that he found Judge Thokozile Masipa’s thinking confusing.
“Even on the finding that he did not know it was Steenkamp behind the toilet door‚ it did not matter. Even if he was under the impression that Reeva was in bed‚ he had necessary intent to bring [about] the demise of the person behind the door‚” said Leach.
“It is inconceivable that a rational person thought he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy-duty firearm,” said Leach, who described Pistorius’s testimony as “vacillating and untruthful”.
Leach said that in light of the improbabilities in Pistorius’ testimony, and the three different versions he provided, one can’t really say why he fired.