Oscar Pistorius removes prosthetic legs in leniency plea

Paralympic athlete attends third day of sentence hearing for 2013 murder of girlfriend

Oscar Pistorius walks without his prosthetic legs at the high court in Pretoria to demonstrate how vulnerable he is without his artificial limbs, an attempt by the athlete's defence team to avoid a long jail sentence for murder. Video: Reuters


At the final arguments on Wednesday before the judge who will sentence convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius, opposing lawyers drove home their divergent perspectives on a crime that has gripped South Africa.

In a bid to seek leniency from high court judge Thokozile Masipa, defence lawyer Barry Roux had Pistorius remove his prosthetic legs in front of a packed high court in Pretoria to try show his client’s vulnerability.

Roux maintained the spectacle was important to show how vulnerable the former former track star and Olympian was when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp early on St Valentine’s morning in 2013. He alleges he believed she was an intruder.

He went on to say that some parts of society were unable to see Pistorius as a vulnerable man, with an anxiety disorder, 1.5m tall on his stumps, who confronted what he believed was a burglar hiding in his bathroom at 3am.

“He is still portrayed in their minds and somewhere in the media as this person winning gold medals, the strong, ambitious person, 1.84m tall, and that would have the effect that the real facts become concealed.

“That perception perfectly attaches to the I-wanted-to-kill theory,” Roux said in mitigation of sentencing.

Pistorius is being sentenced again after the supreme court of appeal last year overturned his culpable homicide conviction in favour of a murder verdict following an appeal by the national prosecution authority.

Roux also compared Pistorius’s case to that of former Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie, who shot dead his only daughter, Marle, in 2004, thinking she was a thief stealing his car. He was never prosecuted.

However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel repeatedly drove home the contention that Pistorius was a cold-blooded, unremorseful killer who needed to serve the minimum mandatory sentence for murder of 15 years.

In response to Roux having Pistorius walk around court on his stumps, Nel applied to the court to lift a ban on the photos of the gunshot wounds he inflicted on Steenkamp.

“Mr Roux wanted the court and the world to see. We now apply to let the world see what this accused did with four Black Talon rounds through a door,” he said.

Earlier in the day Steenkamp’s cousin, Kim Martin, told the court she believed Pistorius has never apologised for the murder.

She added it was hurtful that he gave a recent TV interview due to be aired next week, as he should have given his full version of events in court.

Sentencing has been adjourned to July 6th.