Oscar Pistorius sentence: Reeva Steenkamp's cousin testifies at hearing

The judge could send Pistorius to prison for as many as 15 years

Pretoria: Reeva Steenkamp's cousin sobbed while testifying Wednesday how she first heard on a car radio that Oscar Pistorius had shot and killed his girlfriend.

Kim Martin said she had "hoped to God" that Pistorius was cheating on her cousin and that the woman he had shot was not Reeva.

"They hadn't confirmed the name, they said his girlfriend," Martin recalled as she cried on the witness stand. "I was trying to phone her (Reeva) and she wasn't answering and I was screaming at my husband." Martin, who said she was very close to Steenkamp, said she went immediately to her mother's house.

"The doors opened and my mother was hysterical and that's when I knew it was true," Martin said. "That was for me the end of the world. Everything was just a blur from then onwards."

Martin's emotional testimony during Pistorius' sentencing hearing, which caused the judge to rule a brief adjournment, dealt in detail for the first time at the months-long trial with the impact of the Valentine's Day killing on Steenkamp's family.

Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, was shot multiple times by Pistorius in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. The double-amputee Olympic runner was found guilty of culpable homicide for negligently killing her, but acquitted of murder after claiming he mistook her for a nighttime intruder in his house.

As Martin testified, Pistorius hunched forward in the courtroom and put his hands over his face.

For three days Pistorius' defense lawyers have argued for a correctional supervision sentence with periods of house arrest. The defense called social workers who recommended the former star athlete not be sent to prison. But prosecutors insist that Pistorius, 27, should go to jail for shooting Steenkamp, saying his negligent actions have left a "broken family."

Martin was the prosecution's first sentencing witness, and the first member of Steenkamp's family to testify at the trial, which began seven months ago. She said Steenkamp's death "ruined our whole family," recalling how Steenkamp's mother June was on medication after the killing and father Barry sat in a corner of his house crying.

"It's ruined Aunty June and Uncle Barry," Martin said. "Reeva was everything to them." Steenkamp's father decided against testifying during the sentencing hearing because he said he would "just lose it," Martin testified.

Martin, who is 12 years older than her cousin, began by saying Steenkamp was the first baby she had ever held. "There was a very strong bond from a very young age," Martin said, her voice immediately breaking as she was led through her testimony by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

She also recalled how Steenkamp's father Barry wanted the young model to concentrate on her university studies and become a lawyer. "Her dad told her she must work hard because her life can end in a split second," Martin said.

( Source : AP )
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