GERALD IMRAY & ROB CELLIERS, Associated Press
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) – The parents of Reeva Steenkamp will not pursue a civil claim against Oscar Pistorius for killing their daughter and will pay back around $10,000 that the athlete gave them in monthly instalments to help with living expenses, they said in a statement Wednesday.
Lawyer Dup de Bruyn said he had also advised Barry and June Steenkamp to remain “neutral” with regard to Pistorius’ sentence for negligently killing Reeva Steenkamp by shooting her multiple times in his home.
Relatives of victims sometimes testify to their suffering in sentencing hearings, but de Bruyn suggested Steenkamp’s parents would not. However, de Bruyn said the parents were “quite surprised” that Pistorius’ lawyers had raised the issue of payments when the athlete had asked the Steenkamps that they be kept confidential.
Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide Pistorius’ punishment after finding him guilty last month of culpable homicide and has wide latitude with the sentence. The judge could send the double-amputee Olympic runner to prison for as many as 15 years, or order a fine and a suspended sentence. House arrest is also an option, and has been suggested by two social workers during this week’s hearing.
Pistorius was convicted of acting negligently in Steenkamp’s death on Feb. 14, 2013 but acquitted of murder.
De Bruyn released the statement on behalf of the Steenkamps ahead of the third day of the sentencing hearing Wednesday, saying they had accepted monthly payments of $550 from Pistorius from March 2013 – weeks after their daughter’s shooting death – until last month.
“After Miss Steenkamp (the deceased) was killed … the parents were in financial difficulties,” the parents’ statement issued by their lawyer said.
“We were contacted soon afterwards by Mr. Pistorius’ lawyers with an offer that Mr. Pistorius would contribute an amount … towards the parents’ rental and living expenses.”
Revelations over payments to the Steenkamps by Pistorius were made in court on Tuesday, when the chief prosecutor said the Steenkamps had refused a separate settlement offer of $34,000 from Pistorius and considered it “blood money.”
“When the parents were made aware of this offer, they considered it carefully but decided, for various reasons, that they did not want any payment from Mr. Pistorius,” the Steenkamp lawyer statement said. “This is also why we were instructed to advise that no civil claim would be instituted.”
De Bruyn said he had approached Pistorius’ legal team over a possible civil settlement. Pistorius apparently then made the $34,000 offer after selling what he said was his last asset, a car. The parents considered it and turned it down.
The world-famous athlete has had to sell many of his assets, including the house where he killed Steenkamp, to pay his high-powered defense team during a lengthy murder trial.