Africa

June Steenkamp: Oscar Pistorius terrorised my daughter

June Steenkamp pictured during the Pistorius trial Image copyright AP
Image caption June Steenkamp plans to create a charity in her daughter's memory for abused women.

June Steenkamp was caught in one of the most high-profile criminal cases in recent memory when her daughter Reeva was killed by the paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. Ms Steenkamp told Outlook on the BBC World Service her experiences of the trial, her memories of Reeva, and why she had to take payments from her daughter's killer.

We were always laughing, she had a brilliant sense of humour. She was a kind, loving person, always trying to help others... She just lit up the room when she came in - she had your attention.

I had her for 22 years, but you have to let your children go, you don't own them, you have to let them do what they want to do. We were very close, I'm very understanding.

Her father wasn't so understanding, he just wanted her to be out of danger. He didn't want her to be in Johannesburg because it's quite dangerous compared to Port Elizabeth (PE).

He was worried about her. When he spoke to her he would be asking: "When are you going to come home for good?" But she couldn't make money in PE.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Oscar Pistorius shot dead Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

Arm candy

She was having such a wonderful time, she loved her work.

She didn't tell me about Oscar - the first time I saw them together was on the red carpet at a sports award. And I thought: "Now, who is this man?" Because I'd never heard of him. I never watch sport - especially running. I didn't know of his existence.

She didn't say very much, she kept very quiet in the beginning. But then eventually she said they had been fighting a lot, she wasn't sure if they were compatible.

One day she phoned me and said: "Mummy, Oscar's driving like a lunatic." And I said: "Well, you just put him on the phone".

And I said to him: "If you hurt my baby, I will have you wiped out" - just trying to scare him. Apparently he slowed down straightaway.

In a relationship of three months, love makes you blind to everything, you're just happy - but that wasn't the case.

She couldn't understand why they were fighting, but he was trying to dictate to her, make her into maybe his arm candy or whatever.

I didn't really know more until the messages were read out in court. "I thought you'd be proud to go out with me, but you just pick on me all the time. Incessantly. Don't do this, don't do that. Your accent irritates me. I don't want you to wear that dress, wear this dress."

All about Oscar, Oscar, Oscar, all what he wants. And she wasn't that kind of girl who would be dictated to.

Hysterical

We last spoke on the 13th [February 2013] - she was killed on Valentine's Day. I think she was looking forward to it, she had a present for him. He didn't have a present for her.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Reeva Steenkamp moved out from her parents at 22 to pursue her career.

I heard the news from Detective Botha.

He phoned me and said: "Do you have a daughter Reeva?" And I said: "Yes."

He said: "Well there's been an accident, she's been shot." So I said: "Well you better tell me if she's alive or dead."

And he said: "I'm sorry but she's passed away." So then I was hysterical.

[My husband] was at work. I phoned him, and he thought I'd said one of the dogs had died.

I said: "I want you to come home now." He came rushing in and when he learned the truth, oh it was terrible, terrible. He was shaking head to toe, you just go into shock.

It was all over the news, then the stories started coming out.

[The reporters] slept outside the house, they tried to come in the house with all excuses. One girl said she went to school with Reeva - but she didn't, she was a reporter.

You couldn't even go outside. My husband would go outside and smoke, he just wanted a peaceful little thing on his own, and the newspapers next day said: "How can he smoke? He's got no money." Because people knew we had no money. It was very hurtful.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Steenkamp, pictured with her husband Barry, says she was shocked by Pistorius pleading not guilty.

I know they gave me lots of medication otherwise I wouldn't have been able to go to the funeral. I just had to keep myself standing up, basically. Certain people were there, and I didn't remember they were there.

[Our landlady] read in the paper that we didn't have any money, so she said she gave us notice because she didn't know we were going to pay the bill. She gave us two months to get out but I said: "No, let's just go, pack everything up and leave."

Unforgiveable

We all love our children, we adored Reeva. And to sit next to the person who has killed her… That was scary. Because he's the one who killed her.

He hurt her, he terrorised her. And she didn't deserve it - she didn't do anything.

She had no protection, she didn't have a gun, she had no way to escape out of that room. He shot her four times with those bullets which open up. Horrible.

His personal apology didn't mean anything, I just ignored it. "Sorry" isn't good enough when you've killed someone, is it? How can you be sorry?

It's an enormous mistake - they were saying it was a mistake - it's an unbelievable, unforgiveable mistake to kill another innocent person.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Steenkamp says her daughter told her she and Pistorius were fighting all the time.

When Judge Thokozile Masipa asked: "How do you plead?" and he said "not guilty", it was a big shock for me.

Reeva was dead, he didn't deny that he'd shot her. I think they had a fight, and she was leaving. Her clothes were packed, ready to go.

Eventually when she came to give her verdict she said neglect, gross neglect. Now that is the same as murder in my layperson's mind.

Blood money

We didn't have a choice [but to accept his payments], we were bankrupt - we didn't have food on the table, we had been evicted from our house. What else could we do?

I don't exactly feel comfortable about that but we're paying him all his money back. He did make other offers for settlement and things like that, which I've refused point-blank. Because to me it's just blood money.

My daughter was priceless. No money is going to make anything better.

I'm not interested in what happens to him. He's going to live for the rest of his life with Reeva's face in his mind. And he's going to live with what he did. Only he knows the truth - there's a big piece of puzzle missing.

I'm going to start the Reeva Steenkamp Foundation for Abused Women. We're going to build shelters for women, and they'll be taken care of, and be taught to support themselves with different ways and means, so they can live a life without the abuser, and support themselves without having to depend on someone who's beating you up every night.

Reeva would have loved to do that. And I will do it for her.

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