Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin sobbed as she told a South African court how she first heard on a car radio that Oscar Pistorius had shot and killed his girlfriend.
Kim Martin told the double-amputee athlete’s sentencing hearing in Pretoria she had “hoped to God” that Pistorius was cheating on her cousin, and that the woman he had shot was not Reeva.
“They hadn’t confirmed the name, they said (it was) his girlfriend,” Ms Martin recalled.
“I was trying to phone her (Reeva) and she wasn’t answering and I was screaming at my husband.”
Ms Martin, who said she was very close to Ms Steenkamp, said she went immediately to her mother’s house. “The doors opened and my mother was hysterical and that’s when I knew it was true. “That was for me the end of the world. Everything was just a blur from then onwards.”
Ms Martin’s emotional testimony - which caused Judge Thokozile Masipa to briefly adjourn the hearing - dealt in detail for the first time at the months-long trial with the impact of the fatal shooting on Ms Steenkamp’s family.
Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, was shot multiple times by Pistorius in the early hours of February 14 2013.
The Olympic and Paralympic runner was found guilty of culpable homicide, but was acquitted of murder after claiming he mistook her for an intruder in his house.
As Ms Martin testified, Pistorius hunched forward in the courtroom and put his hands over his face.
For three days, Pistorius’ defence lawyers have argued for a correctional supervision sentence with periods of house arrest. The defence called social workers who recommended that the former star athlete should not be sent to prison.
But prosecutors insist that Pistorius, 27, should go to jail for shooting Ms Steenkamp, saying his negligent actions have left a “broken family”.
Ms Martin was the prosecution’s first sentencing witness, and the first member of Ms Steenkamp’s family to testify at the trial, which began seven months ago.
She said the death “ruined our whole family,” recalling how Ms Steenkamp’s mother June was on medication after the killing and her father Barry sat in a corner of his house crying.
“It’s ruined Aunty June and Uncle Barry,” Ms Martin said. “Reeva was everything to them.”
Ms Steenkamp’s father decided against testifying during the sentencing hearing because he said he would “just lose it”, Ms Martin testified.
Ms Martin, who is 12 years older than her cousin, began by saying that Ms Steenkamp was the first baby she had ever held.
“There was a very strong bond from a very young age,” she said, her voice immediately breaking as she was led through her testimony by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
She also recalled how Reeva’s father Barry wanted the young model to concentrate on her university studies and become a lawyer.
“Her dad told her she must work hard because her life can end in a split-second,” Ms Martin said.