herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

LET'S NOT FORGET POOR REEVA... THE PERSON WE NEED TO REMEMBER

"It's right". Those words were spoken by June Steenkamp, this morning, as Judge Thokozile Maspia handed down a sentence of five years in prison to the double amputee for the culpable homicide of her daughter.

"I'm very glad it's over," her husband Barry added.

As the world reacted to the verdict, the parents of Reeva Steenkamp looked visibly relieved. But they maintained the dignified presence that has been the hallmark of their presence in courtroom throughout Oscar Pistorius's trial and sentencing.

No wild jubilation or celebration for them. After all is said and done, after Pistorius has been accompanied to his prison cell today, their daughter is still gone.

They have made small efforts to keep their Reeva's name a presence in the courtroom, even bringing in water bottles with her picture printed on the front.

Because the harsh reality is that the woman Pistorius shot on hardly featured in the trial, except couched in legal speak.

Indeed, the only occasion on which Reeva's voice was heard during the trial came, via the Whatsapp messages she'd sent to Pistorius two weeks before her death, in which she claimed to be "scared of you sometimes".

evidence

It was a short-lived intervention, as the judge dismissed them as evidence - and with them Reeva's fear. The show rolled on.

Until last week. Finally - at the very last moment - we heard from a member of the Steenkamp family. Her eldest cousin, Kim Martin, took to the stand as a witness for the prosecution.

We heard about her loving upbringing; her fun-loving personality; and how she sent her parents everything she made, as they "struggled financially". We were told about her past relationships - one abusive, when she was younger and one with a workaholic, with who she wanted to start a family. We discovered that she was a campaigner for women's rights, who - after being thrown from a horse - realised that "life can be over so quickly".

It was a heart-breaking detail, considering her fate.

Barry and June Steenkamp (inset) - finally seeing a glimmer of the daughter they knew, represented in court - broke down repeatedly. Every new memory brought fresh tears.

Despite financial hardships and health problems (Barry had a stroke this year) the couple are still together and clearly dote on one another. And it's that closeness that, we can only hope, will help them to navigate the coming months and years, as Pistorius serves out his sentence for the killing of their child.

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