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Updated 20 June 2016

Pistorius sentencing: Barry Steenkamp’s brave evidence

CyberShrink believes Reeva's father displayed genuine grief, in contrast to Oscar’s self-indulgent performances.

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The sublime, tragic, brave and dignified evidence of Barry Steenkamp was touching and an invaluable reminder that there were genuine human tragedies in the aftermath of Reeva’s murder – with Oscar’s snivelling self-pity the least of it. 

Desperate financial situation

Barry is truly a broken man, and it’s not his fault. He suffered a stroke soon after losing his daughter, and demonstrates chronic and severe grief. Nel handled him gently but to the point. This is what totally genuine grief looks like, not the histrionic performances Oscar produced.  

An interesting fact is that Reeva, who was in the habit of phoning each parent on a weekly basis, had not told her parents about her relationship with Oscar, making one wonder whether she was as serious about Oscar as he claimed.

Read: Close relationships not always good

Moving to financial issues, it seems clear that though the family was in a desperate financial situation, and threated with eviction soon after Reeva’s death, they were wary about accepting “blood money”. There were some negotiations between the lawyers about a larger payment, possibly R360 000, but it was agreed this would all be kept wholly confidential, until the defence revealed this in court. Upon this the family felt disgusted and refused further discussion. As Barry said, “It’s my daughter that’s gone, not money!”

'Oscar must pay'

We are left with profoundly touching and tragic images. The old man sitting on the porch at 3 a.m., crying and looking at photos of his daughter, hearing his wife weeping in the night; the old man with the desperate logic of grief, trying to experience some of the pain she suffered, punching his arthritic hands into the wall, and stabbing himself with his insulin needles.   

Read: The phases of grief

Aware that some had criticised Nel for confronting Oscar with the awful picture of Reeva’s destroyed head, Barry was not at all offended, and indeed asked the court if all the pictures could be shown to the public: “I would like the world to see her wounds.” He hoped this might help stop others from hurting people so dreadfully.

Roux didn’t dare cross-examine this witness, though he couldn’t resist hinting that the evidence contained ”errors”,  perhaps thinking of the way he had been accused of releasing the supposedly confidential financial discussions. But he did add: “We’re very, very sorry.”

Asked what he felt the sentence should be, Steenkamp said he wasn’t asking for the maximum sentence possible, but that the sentence should be severe: “Oscar must pay for what he did!”  

Read more:

Brain chemical linked to grief

Grief can be a killer

How do you deal with grief?

Note: Views expressed by our columnists do not necessarily reflect those of Health24.com or 24.com

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.

 

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