As Oscar Pistorius said in a statement in a South Africa court room that he believed his girlfriend was an intruder when he shot her to death on Valentine’s Day, a funeral for Reeva Steenkamp was held in Port Elizabeth this morning.
Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, reality-TV show star and law school graduate, was shot at the home of Pistorius, a Paralympian and Olympic athlete who is a national hero in his homeland.
“There’s a space missing inside all the people she knew that can’t be filled again,” Adam Steenkamp, the victim’s brother, said (via CNN) outside the Victoria Park Crematorium, where the private service for friends and relatives was held.
Pistorius was charged with premeditation in Steenkamp’s death and prosecutors contend that he shot her four times through a locked bathroom door. Pistorius said he believed an intruder had entered the house in the early-morning hours Thursday. As a double amputee, he said “it filled me with horror and fear” to be vulnerable without his legs in a country marked by violence.
Pistorius said that he always kept a 9mm handgun under his bed. As he stood outside on a balcony (his legs were amputated at the knee and he often walks some on his stumps), he heard a noise in the bathroom, he said in his statement. “I screamed words to the effect of for him/her to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police,” he said. “I thought Reeva was in the bed. I felt extremely vulnerable, but I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself.”
He fired four shots through the bathroom door, then “realized that Reeva was not in the bed. That’s when it dawned on me it must have been Reeva in the toilet.”
His lawyers argued that he should be granted bail, but Steenkamp’s friends strongly disagreed.
“Without a doubt he’s a danger to the public. He’ll be a danger to witnesses. He must stay in jail. He’s already shown how dangerous he can be for what he did to Reeva,” Gavin Venter, an ex-jockey who worked for Steenkamp’s father, said (via Reuters). “She was an angel, she was so soft, so innocent. Such a lovely person. It’s just sad that this could happen to somebody so good.”
Bongiwe Gaxamba, a former high-school classmate of Steenkamp’s said: “It was a total shock. It is only sinking in right now.”
Outside the courthouse, demonstrators marched against domestic violence, with one person carrying a sign that read “Pistorius must rot in jail.”
Tuesday’s hearing marked the first day on which details of the shooting began to emerge. Pistorius’s laywers said that he had tried to revive Steenkamp after realizing there was no intruder.
The Steenkamp family wasn’t thinking about Pistorius’s court appearance, though.
“For now, we are just focusing on getting over the funeral … on getting this part of the difficult journey behind us,” Mike Steenkamp, the family’s spokesperson, said. “We’re trying not to think about Oscar or the court appearance. We have deliberately not watched TV or listened to the radio. We just don’t want to think about it. We want to blank it all out and focus for now on the here and now.”
Over the weekend, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, said in an interview with the Times of Johannesburg: “All we have is this horrendous death to deal with…to get to grips with All we want are answers … answers as to why this had to happen, why our beautiful daughter had to die like this.”