Oscar Pistorius guilty of manslaughter

Oscar Pistorius in court.

Oscar Pistorius in court.

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ATHLETE Oscar Pistorius is facing jail after being found guilty of the manslaughter of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

South African High Court judge Thokozile Masipa had earlier said the 27-year-old Olympian had been “negligent” in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year when he fatally shot the law graduate-turned-model.

Pistorius always admitted being responsible for her death at his home in Pretoria, but said he mistook his partner for intruders and fired four bullets from his 9mm pistol through the toilet cubicle.

The judge yesterday dismissed prosecution claims that the double-amputee intentionally killed the 29-year-old, saying Pistorius could not be convicted of either pre-meditated or second-degree murder.

But she returned to court this morning to convict him of culpable homicide - the South African equivalent of the UK’s manslaughter charge - and one gun charge relating to a restaurant shooting.

Pistorius stood with his hands crossed to hear the verdict but showed no emotion.

Judge Masipa told the hushed courtroom: “Having regard to the totality of this evidence in this matter, the unanimous decision of this court is the following: on count one, murder ... the accused found not guilty and is discharged.

“Instead he is found guilty of culpable homicide.”

Yesterday, on the first day of delivering her verdict, the judge criticised Pistorius for acting hastily when he shot Ms Steenkamp.

She said: “If the accused, for example, had awoken in the middle of the night and in darkness seen a silhouette by his bed and in a panic shot at that figure, only to find it was the deceased, his conduct would have been understandable and perhaps excusable.”

She added: “The accused had reasonable time to think, reflect and conduct himself.

“I’m not persuaded that a reasonable person with the same disability would have fired the four shots.

“The accused knew there was a person behind the toilet door, he chose to use a firearm.

“I am of the view the accused acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent.”

Earlier Pistorius was cleared of two gun charges and convicted of a third.

The guilty verdict related to an incident at a restaurant where more than 200 people were present in January last year, although Pistorius denied he was the one to pull the trigger.

Judge Masipa said: “The accused asked for a firearm while in a restaurant full of patrons.

“He may not have intentionally pulled the trigger but that does not absolve him.”

She added: “I view the state has proved beyond all reasonable doubt” that Pistorius contravened gun laws.

Pistorius was found not guilty of illegally being in possession of .38 ammunition. He told the court the bullets belonged to his father and he had them for safe-keeping, although his father refused to make a statement confirming that.

“The state must prove the accused had the necessary mental intention ... to possess a firearm or ammunition before there can be a conviction. It is quite possible to possess a firearm innocently is clear if ... with an intention of returning it to an owner.

“He cannot be found guilty on this count.”

Pistorius was earlier cleared of another gun charge. The incident related to an allegation that the Olympian fired his weapon through a car sunroof in November 2012.

But the judge said prosecution witness Darren Fresco was “poor”, and cleared Pistorius of the charge.

Pistorius denied firing the gun.

The judge said: “The state has failed to establish that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt and has to be acquitted.”

Ms Steenkamp’s father Barry leaned forward in his seat when the manslaughter verdict was read. Her mother, June, showed no reaction.

Members of Pistorius’ family embraced the shamed athlete as judge Masipa called for a short adjournment.

The judge also announced that Darren Fresco, who Pistorius blamed for passing him a loaded gun in the packed restaurant, would not be prosecuted for his part in the incident.