Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All about Reeva; during the Seven-Month Trial of Oscar Pistorius One Story Was Barely Told: That of His Victim. Jane Flanagan in Pretoria Reports on the Too-Short Life of Reeva Steenkamp

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All about Reeva; during the Seven-Month Trial of Oscar Pistorius One Story Was Barely Told: That of His Victim. Jane Flanagan in Pretoria Reports on the Too-Short Life of Reeva Steenkamp

Article excerpt

Byline: barely told , Jane Flanagan in

IT TOOK 46 days of testimony from detectives, experts, neighbours, friends and foes before the court trying Oscar Pistorius learned anything about the woman he'd killed. During seven months of evidence, Reeva Steenkamp had been defined by her brief roles in the Paralympian's life and trial -- as his "girlfriend", "victim" and "deceased".

Twenty-seven year-old Pistorius wept, retched and clawed at his eyes as forensic images of Reeva's devastating injuries were flashed around the world. She had a beautiful profile -- even in death with the gaping bullet hole above her ear and dark blood that matted her hair -- and yet so little had been shared about her in life. Dozens of her intimate, agonised WhatsApp messages to Pistorius were pored over by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, but those of us who sat in court day after day had been left none the wiser about their author, apart from her obvious turmoil at the time of writing. "It's all Oscar, Oscar, Oscar," a friend of the 29-year-old lamented regularly as more than 40 witnesses addressed Pretoria's high court. "Where is Reeva in any of this?" Similar frustrations had been voiced in the hours after her lifeless body was recovered from Pistorius's home at dawn on Valentine's Day last year. As the flow of details about the fatal shooting gathered pace, facts about Steenkamp beyond her status as "model" and "girlfriend" had been lost, prompting #Her-NAMEWASREEVASTEENKAMP to trend in defiance of the cliches.

We had to wait another 20 months for an unexpected appearance in the witness box by Steenkamp's first cousin, Kim Martin, before Pistorius's crime finally made space for its victim.

"I must be Reeva's voice. It is my way of paying her back for what she went through," Martin told Judge Thokozile Masipa at the end of a week-long hearing to determine Pistorius's sentence on his conviction of culpable homicide, or manslaughter.

The court was moved to a stunned silence as it finally heard about Reeva Steenkamp's life beyond her first introduction to Pistorius and her sudden, violent death at his hands. In a broken, but determined voice, Martin, 42, began her story with Steenkamp as the first baby she had ever held, and whose childhood was full of love for animals and family that remained constant throughout her life. Steenkamp was a conscientious and popular student. Although she had her heart set on studying for a career in the law, the naturally dark-haired Reeva began modelling as a paid hobby that helped fund her law-school fees -- money had always been in short supply at home.

A keen rider all her life -- her father Barry, 72, was a racehorse trainer -- Steenkamp suffered a bad fall during her final year at university that left her with such severe injuries that she was in traction for months, not knowing if she would ever walk again.

Although she went on to make a full recovery, the incident convinced her life was too short to compromise. And so, clutching a modest portfolio, a new con-tract to be the face of Avon South Africa and a full head of blonde highlights, the law graduate set off for Johannesburg to forge a career in modelling.

Leaving an "emotionally abusive" relationship behind her, Steenkamp set up home in a white suburb with a new, younger, boyfriend, Warren Lahoud, an energetic entrepreneur and "a real gentleman" according to her mother, June, 67, Meanwhile Steenkamp's two older half siblings, Adam and Simone, had moved to the United Kingdom. They were born in Blackburn when Steenkamp's mother and her first husband lived there. After Steenkamp's death, her sister Simone Cowburn, 49, returned to South Africa. …

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