PRETORIA - A cousin of slain model Reeva Steenkamp made a tearful plea Thursday for Oscar Pistorius to "pay for what he has done," as the prosecution sought to make sure the Paralympic athlete goes to jail.
Battling tears and with her voice trembling, Kim Martin told a sentencing hearing that she was "very fearful" of the South African star sprinter and did not believe his apology for killing her cherished cousin was genuine.
"Pistorius needs to pay for what he has done, for taking Reeva's life, for what he's done to my uncle, to my aunt and the rest of my family," she said.
"My family are not people who are seeking revenge, we just feel that to take someone's life, to shoot somebody behind a door, that is unarmed, that is harmless, needs sufficient punishment.
"Everybody has suffered here, and I really think we need send a message to society that you can't do this and get away with it." Pistorius has been found guilty of manslaughter for shooting Steenkamp dead on Valentine's Day 2013.
He could be sentenced as soon as Friday, but with no mandatory minimum sentence, Judge Thokozile Masipa will have to decide whether he deserves to go to jail or stay free.
Pistorius's defence team has painted the "Blade Runner" as a "broken man", racked by guilt about accidentally shooting his lover four times with hollow point bullets, believing her to be a burglar.
They have argued the double amputee would be vulnerable in prison and should be punished by community service.
The defence has warned that a jail term would "break" the star sprinter - who inspired millions when he became the first double amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics - and that he could fall victim to prison violence, including gang rape.
"Without legs he will be vulnerable and a lot more vulnerable than the normal man," said probation officer Annette Vergeer.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has slammed that suggestion of community service as shockingly inappropriate," and warned that "if the court sentence is too light, and society loses trust in the court, they will take the law into their own hands." He called Martin to the stand in a bid to shift the spotlight back on to the devastating impact of Pistorius's actions, saying Steenkamp's death had "ruined" her family.
"I had to do this for Reeva, I owe it to her," Martin said, describing Steenkamp as a thoughtful, caring young woman whose death felt like "the end of the world." She recalled Reeva was the first baby she ever held, and recounted a joyful shared childhood filled with horse-riding, school homework and time with family.
As Martin recounted her cherished memories, Steenkamp's father Barry, who suffered a near-fatal stroke after Reeva's death, wept in court, his shoulders shaking.
Pistorius sat in the dock, also wiping away tears.
Martin said she was in a car when she heard on the radio that Pistorius appeared to have shot his girlfriend.
"I remember saying to my husband: 'I hope to God he's cheating on Reeva.'" But when Martin saw her distraught mother she knew it was not so. "For me it was the end of the world," she told the court.
Pistorius, 27, was found guilty last month of culpable homicide over the killing of the 29-year-old law graduate, but was acquitted of murder.