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Kimberley - The 17-year-old who was found guilty of murdering three members of the Steenkamp family on their farm, Naauwhoek, near Griquatown on April 6 2012, was raised not to show emotion or cry in the presence of other people.
Social workers who addressed the Northern Cape High Court on Wednesday indicated that this could explain his apparent lack of emotion.
The accused has slammed the media for its “heartless portrayal” of him as being a monster, rapist and murderer, which has resulted in members of the public staring at him.
He was found guilty for the murders of Deon Steenkamp, 44, his wife Christel, 43, and their 14-year-old daughter, Marthella, as well as the rape of Marthella and defeating the ends of justice.
A social worker from the Department of Correctional Services, Catharina Klaaste, who consulted with the accused at the youth detention facility at the Kimberley Correctional Centre, said on Wednesday that the accused had told her that there was no need to be afraid of him.
“I was alone with him and he closed the door saying that he could not understand why people feared him. He seemed to be a charming child.”
She said that, during her interactions with the accused, she never got the impression that he was holding back any emotions or tears.
She said that it appeared as if the accused was distancing himself from the murders and rape.
“He indicated that he did not commit the crimes and therefore could not accept any responsibility.
“He has difficulty trusting people and said that he cries at night when he sees images of the murdered family.”
Klaaste described the accused as having had a happy childhood and sharing a healthy relationship with his parents.
“He was close to his mother but said that he did everything with his father. He got along well with Marthella and also did gymkhana with her.”
Klaaste added that the accused had fitted easily into the family where he was residing with his guardians.
“He is not a moody child, he is obedient and well disciplined and was spoilt by his parents. He is independent and has a strong personality. At times, he comes forth as being arrogant, although I did not detect any abnormal behaviour and he is on the whole stable.”
The accused has no previous convictions and is a first offender.
He reported to Klaaste that he did not consume alcohol, did not smoke and had never used drugs or dagga.
“He has not had sexual relations with any of his female friends.”
She believed that a prison sentence would be beneficial and would not have a negative impact on the development of the accused.
“A prison term will give him an opportunity to think about his actions, as he has not yet taken responsibility for the crimes. It will do justice to the seriousness of the offences, as he has shown no remorse for his actions. He will have access to professional services inside the centre and will be involved in rehabilitation programmes for aggression, crime prevention and life skills.”
Klaaste stated that upon conclusion of the programme, a report would be drawn up and presented to the parole board to determine if he had successfully been rehabilitated.
She noted that the accused would be exposed to criminals if he was imprisoned, although he would be shielded from any unsavoury external influences.
“Should he be given correctional supervision, he will be placed under house arrest for the duration of his sentence. His actions and movements will be limited and a correctional services official will make visits at any time of the day or night. He will be required to complete 60 hours of community service.”
She added that juvenile offenders between the ages of 18 and 21 years were accommodated in the juvenile section while offenders from 21 to 25 years were detained at youth care centres in De Aar and Springbok.
“The juvenile centre at Kimberley prison is not overcrowded. There are only 78 young offenders there who receive the necessary attention.”
Karen van Wyk, a social worker employed at the Department of Social Development, added that the accused informed her that he was taught from an early age that men were not allowed to cry.
She added that the accused had received instructions from his legal advisor not to go into detail about the murders, as it might influence his appeal.
“The accused denied any involvement in the crimes and lacked remorse. He did not know who the perpetrators were. It would have assisted me in identifying mitigating circumstances if he gave me the background of what had happened.”
She stated that while the accused spoke spontaneously about his family, he did not express grief or cry easily.
“If an offender does not admit guilt, it is difficult for the victims of the murdered family to forgive him and can hamper the rehabilitation process. I wanted to know if it was not him, who else could it have been?”
Van Wyk added that the accused had told her that he had not had any intimate sexual relationships with any of his friends while he had both male and female friends.
She indicated that the minor was not involved in satanistic practices.
“We had to investigate this, especially since the murders were committed on Good Friday and it is common for Satanists to sacrifice blood on this day.”
She refrained from giving an opinion as to whether she thought the accused had lied to her during her interactions with him.
A forensic social worker from the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), Marita van Kraayenburg, stated that the accused did not display any psychopathic tendencies.
“We did not detect any signs of abuse while there is no history of violence, aggressive or anti-social behaviour.”
Van Kraayenburg added that the accused felt hurt that no one believed in his innocence.
She stated that the family of the deceased had agreed to allow the accused to farm on two of the six farms that was bequeathed to him by the Steenkamp family, on condition that he completed his studies.
She said the accused had a low risk of becoming a re-offender but would need extensive therapy.
Van Kraayenburg was of the opinion that a direct imprisonment was the most appropriate sentence, due to the seriousness of the offences.
She indicated that prison terms of 15 years was applicable to minors, unless exceptional circumstances prescribed otherwise.
Van Kraayenburg added that offenders who did not show remorse, were given insight into their actions through the rehabilitation process.
Riaan Bode, for the defence, indicated that his client did cry, despite him being accused of not showing any emotions.
State advocate Hannes Cloete believed that the accused was not a candidate for correctional supervision due to the seriousness of the offences.
“The first step to rehabilitation is the admission of guilt and remorse while the community needs to be protected.”
He noted that the boy’s guardians similarly refused to accept his guilt despite the court’s guilt verdict.
“He is regarded as a victim instead of an accused.”
Cloete added that the accused had a manipulative personality where he had influenced the reports of social workers and the criminologist by volunteering information to them that he had not had any sexual relations with any of his female friends.
“The hardened men of Griquatown who were brought up not to hug or cry in public, cried like children when they heard of the brutal murders.”
He pointed out that for many it was difficult to accept or process the guilt of the accused.
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