Sometimes you read a story that is so bizarre and horrific, so inhumane and thoughtless, you think you must have read fiction.
Sadly, this story is 100% real.
In South Africa today, the trial began of Paralympic medalist Oscar Pistorius, who stands accused of murdering his then-girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It is a controversial case that has attracted worldwide publicity, not least because the couple had enjoyed celebrity status in their home country.
Yet a bookie has offered odds on Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial — specifically if he “walks.” You read that right. This vile and thoughtless company is taking bets on a murder trial — the murder of a young woman who died at the age of 29. It comes under the “Novelty Bets” section of the website. Under the title “Premeditated Murder Charge Verdict,” the bookie has offered odds on “Guilty” and “Not Guilty” ahead of the start of the trial. A further description reads: “Singles Only. Applies to the verdict of Oscar Pistorius’ first trial for the charge of premeditated murder. Bets void should charge be changed from ‘premeditated murder’ before verdict. Bets void should mistrial be declared.”
As day one of the trial began immediately after the Academy Awards and with Pistorius pleading not guilty to four charges, including one of murder, Paddy Power chose to respond by turning the trial into some kind of sport. (In case you are not familiar with the story: Prosecutors allege Pistorius, 27, shot his model and reality TV-star girlfriend through the bathroom door at his home on Valentine’s Day last year. Pistorius claims he mistook her for an intruder.)
Twitter has been ablaze with people condemning the bet as “sick” and “offensive.” Yet Paddy Power has said they have no intention of taking the ad down, with a spokesman actually defending the advertisement, describing the trial as “like O.J. Simpson on steroids.”
Take a look at the photo below. This is Pistorius today in court, walking in front of Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp (pictured on the left). This woman has lost her daughter — has to go through the heartache of losing her daughter all over again during this trial — and a betting company is profiting from her tragic loss. How can this happen?
There is already a petition signed by (at the time of writing) almost 72,000 people, that has asked Paddy Power:
“Please remove your offensive betting on the outcome of Oscar Pistorius trial and donate any profits so far to a women’s charity fighting violence against women. [...] Please consider the vast surge of public outrage against the terrible decision you have taken to offer bets upon the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial. Reeva Steenkamp was a young woman who was tragically killed and her parents are grieving still. Her death is not and should never be a source of entertainment or profit.”
Betting is largely based on sports, where dedication and bravery are rewarded in winning results. There is nothing brave about murder, especially that of a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her. The world of betting does not belong in a courtroom. End of story.