Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius' girlfriend, was 'angel on earth'

Tributes flood in to South African model whose sprinter boyfriend is charged with her murder

LAST UPDATED AT 17:04 ON Thu 14 Feb 2013

REEVA STEENKAMP, the South African model who has been shot dead, allegedly by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius, was a model, a law graduate and "an absolute angel on earth".

As reports began to emerge today that Steenkamp had been shot four times in the head and hand by a 9mm pistol registered to the Paralympic sprint champion, her publicist Sarit Tomlinson described the 30-year-old model as "the kindest, most unbelievable girl". Her fledgling relationship with 26-year-old Pistorius appeared "healthy" and "fabulous", Tomlinson said.

Steenkamp's media profile was set to "explode" this weekend when she made her debut as one of the stars of a South African reality TV series called Tropika Island of Treasure, Tomlinson said. A message was added to the show's website today that said: "We are deeply saddened and extend our condolences to Reeva's family and friends."

She and Pistorius began dating in November last year and first appeared in public together at South Africa's Sports Awards. Steenkamp told journalists at the ceremony they were "just friends", but as the relationship blossomed, the glamorous couple came to be seen as South Africa's equivalent of 'Posh and Becks', says The Guardian.

Steenkamp was born in Cape Town, but moved to Port Elizabeth as a child. She gained a law degree at the city's Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University before embarking on a successful modelling career.

She relocated to Johannesburg six years ago when she became 'the face' of the South African branch of the cosmetics company Avon, reports the BBC. The men's magazine FHM put her on the cover of its December 2011 edition and included her on its list of the World's 100 Sexiest Women for two years running.

Hagen Engler, the former editor of the South African edition of FHM, said he had known Steenkamp since she was 15, describing her as "an amazing girl, a really intelligent person".

The Guardian says Steenkamp had been scheduled to give a motivational speech to school students in Johannesburg this morning. Tomlinson, who has a copy of the address, said it was about "empowerment and inspiration and what inspires you and how to follow your dreams".

In recent days Steenkamp had used her Twitter account to post messages urging women to "stand up against rape" as well as expressing her excitement about Valentine's Day.

"It's a huge loss for everyone," Tomlinson told journalists today. "It's just too shocking for words." · 

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