Johannesburg – Oscar Pistorius’s father, Henke, believes his son should never have been convicted of murder and is “furious” that his advice on the case was repeatedly ignored by the Pistorius family and their legal team.
Henke also lashed out at Advocate Gerrie Nel, saying the State prosecutor’s “misleading lies” were an “embarrassment to the country’s legal system”.
Scarcely 24 hours after the National Prosecuting Authority filed its appeal against Oscar’s six-year sentence for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, Henke has finally broken his silence in an exclusive interview with City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport.
“I am now speaking out for Oscar. I am standing up for my child. I remained silent for too long. I stood back. Now that’s over,” said Henke, himself an attorney.
During the court case, Henke was seldom seen in the High Court in Pretoria. He was never part of the solid Pistorius family, standing squarely behind Oscar, something which has raised much speculation.
“I don’t have to defend myself, that I’m an absent father. Let them say so. It doesn’t matter.”
What people didn’t know was that Henke was often just two blocks away, watching proceedings from the advocates’ chambers.
“I am part of the family; we go out and eat together. But [Oscar’s uncle] Arnold and I are no longer close, the way we were when were schoolboys causing trouble and getting hidings together. Priorities began to differ, that’s all I can say.”
In court, there was testimony about Henke and Oscar’s strained relationship.
At Oscar’s bail hearing, Henke reached out to him but Oscar, in the full glare of dozens of cameras, ignored his surprised father.
“I don’t know if he saw me. If . . . there were a lot of emotions at that stage. If he was feeling overwhelmed, maybe a hug would have made him cry. Maybe he was just trying to prevent that.”
He saw his son in jail a few times, but the long, open-hearted discussion between father and son he had so hoped for never happened.
“We hug each other, but not a lot is said. Because I am the father, and a mistake was made, a tragic mistake. There isn’t really anything more to say.”
Now his frustration with Oscar’s advocate, Barry Roux, has finally boiled over when he read Nel’s appeal arguments in the media. According to Nel, sentencing must be focussed on the fact that a person who was behind a toilet door and who presented no immediate danger to the accused was shot.
“Rubbish! For God’s sake, forget this guessing game of who was standing behind the toilet door, where and how. If Reeva was trying to get away – the State alleged she was running away from a ‘gun-wielding Oscar’ – she would have hidden in the opposite corner, or next to the wall alongside the door. She wouldn’t have been sitting on the toilet.”
Henke claims that he performed calculations on the four bullet holes in the toilet door – measuring a square around the bullet holes and comparing it to how much space a person of Reeva’s height would have to stand – and reached his own shocking conclusion.
“If you look at the trajectory of the bullets, it’s clear: If she was standing in the opposite corner, or next to the wall alongside the door, the chances of her being hit were less than 1%.
“That’s irrespective of the fact that the bullets went through the door at a height of lower than 1m and all of them had a downward trajectory, which would hardly have been able to fatally injure a standing person. Now, 1% is miles from the reality Nel is trying to create.
“God only knows how something so obvious was overlooked. To me, it’s totally inexplicable.”
Henke revealed his findings to Roux; Oscar’s attorney, Brian Webber; and his brother Arnold, but it was repeatedly ignored.
“The advice I gave them was simply wiped away. There was no reaction to the request I made as a father.”
Henke even went to Arnold’s office to try to speak to him.
“I couldn’t, he was in a long meeting.” Henke then put his conclusions in a letter and followed them up with a phone call.
“It’s shocking, actually. The cardinal questions were not asked! I’m . . . bedonnerd [enraged] about it, to put it lightly. Furious with everyone who was involved because I said it over and over.”
Henke said he even told Roux a few days before the verdict that he hoped this oversight didn’t become Oscar’s Achilles heel.
“And then that was precisely what happened. In her judgment, Judge Thokozile Masipa said three times: the toilet was so small, Oscar knew that if he was shooting through the door he would probably hit a person.”
Henke, who was joined by defence ballistic expert Wollie Wolmarans during Rapport’s interview, also spoke of his unhappiness with one of the most unsettling moments in the murder trial, when Nel showed a video in which Pistorius was seen shooting a watermelon and then asking him if he didn’t know that Reeva’s head would also “explode, like a watermelon”.
The gun in the video is 10 times more powerful than the murder weapon, says Wolmarans.
A red-eyed Henke says a Canadian friend who had previously worked in South Africa called him and said “he was embarrassed that something like that was allowed to happen in a country with classical legal principles”.
Prosecutor Nel and his “misleading lies” are to blame for that, Henke insists.
“The personal pleasure that he visibly drew from [the case], isn’t just a reflection on who he is, but detracts from the critical importance of pure, fair thinking in our otherwise proud justice system. For anybody to apply ‘their own type of justice’ with falsehood, lies and twisted ‘facts’ doesn’t contribute to or build our proud Roman-Dutch law.”
Oscar is a person who does not make mistakes, his father insists.
“His biggest punishment, which he will have to carry for the rest of his life: He is responsible for the death of his lover.
“No punishment could be more severe. My son should have got no more than punishment for manslaughter.”