Reeva Steenkamp: the life and death of a rising star
Mystery still surrounds the death of Reeva Steenkamp, the model, law graduate and domestic violence campaigner
Reeva Steenkamp was a "rising star" in the modelling world with plans to qualify as a legal advocate when she was shot dead by Oscar Pistorius on 14 February last year. The 29-year-old had been dating Pistorius for three months and planned to tell him she loved him for the first time in his Valentine's Day card – but she never had the chance to see him open it. The athlete, known as 'Blade Runner', has admitted to shooting his girlfriend but insists he mistook her for a dangerous intruder. He is currently undergoing psychiatric assessment to determine his state of mind at the time he pulled the trigger.
Who was Reeva Steenkamp?
Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp was born in Cape Town on 19 August 1983 to horse trainer Barry Steenkamp and his second wife June, who was originally from Blackburn, England. The family later moved to Port Elizabeth, where Reeva completed a law degree. She began modelling as a teenager and later moved to Johannesburg to further her career. She became the face of Avon in South Africa, made the cover of FHM and starred in a television reality show called Tropika Island of Treasure – the last episode of which aired after her death. She had also applied to the Bar in 2011 and hoped to qualify as a legal advocate before she was 30. In court, Pistorius described Reeva as "a very good Christian" and said she would pray about "all the small things in life".
What about her charity work?
"It's ironic that Reeva Steenkamp lost her life at the hands of a man with a gun," reports Vanity Fair. "She and her mother were passionate, longtime advocates for women suffering from violence and abuse." Before moving to Johannesburg, Reeva had been involved with an emotionally abusive boyfriend. Having cut her ties with him, she dreamed of opening a shelter for abused women and children. On the day before her death, she had urged her followers on Twitter to wear black the day after Valentine's Day in protest at violence against women. Had she lived, she would have delivered a speech to a group of teenage girls the following days, urging them not to give in to emotional abuse. "Reeva was going to tell her young school audience how important it was to be loved by others, not for your physical appearance but for who you are," reports CBS News. "And she was going to close her remarks by urging the young girls to 'Be brave, always see the positive' and to 'Go home and tell your parents, siblings, neighbours that they are appreciated'."
How did Reeva and Oscar meet?
The couple met on 4 November 2013 through a mutual friend at a car event. Reeva agreed to accompany Pistorius to the SA Sports Awards and they subsequently started dating. She was living with her best friend Gina Myers, Gina's sister Kim and their parents Cecil and Desi in Johannesburg, often describing them as her "Joburg family". One of Reeva's final messages was sent to Cecil and Desi at around 10pm on 13 February to say: "Hi guys, I’m too tired. It's too far to drive. I’m sleeping at Oscar’s tonight. See you tomorrow." Instead, the family spent the next day identifying her body.
In what state was their relationship in the run-up to the shooting?
This has been the subject of dispute during the trial. The prosecution has quoted a text message sent by Reeva to Pistorius in which she said, "I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me." The defence has said that the vast majority of messages portray a normal, loving relationship. In court today Pistorius's manager said that shortly before the shooting the athlete was planning trips to Brazil and Manchester with Reeva – and suggested that she would be the first of Pistorius's girlfriends to accompany him to an overseas athletics meeting.
Where was Reeva when she was shot?
Reeva was locked inside Pistorius's toilet cubicle when she was shot. The athlete claims she must have gone to the toilet while he was not looking and then he mistook her for an intruder, while the prosecution claims she was hiding in the toilet after a fight. The prosecution case states that she was standing up when Pistorius opened fire, when a shot to her hip caused her to fall back onto a magazine rack. They claim she was shot in the right arm and head as she crossed her arms over her head to protect herself. A witness for the defence has suggested she might have had her arm outstretched to open the door when she was first shot. Another defence witness believes she was falling, rather than sitting, when she was shot in the head.
How did Reeva die?
The exact order in which the bullets hit Reeva is still being examined in court. State pathologist Gert Saayman, who carried out Reeva's autopsy, said the bullet that hit her in the head would have caused her to lose consciousness as it fractured her skull and entered her brain. "The wound to the head was incapacitating and probably almost instantly fatal," he told the court. However he said that any one of the bullet wounds to her head, hip and elbow could have potentially caused her death because of the extent of the bleeding. Pistorius used an expanding bullet designed to cause maximum tissue damage. The "black talon" or "ranger" ammunition, made by US-based firm Winchester, is designed to "open up, flatten out and mushroom when striking human tissue", he said. If Reeva had lived, he added, she would not have been able to use her arm and her hip wound would have affected her balance. ·