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Prosecutors have won their right to appeal against Oscar Pistorius’ ‘culpable homicide’ conviction, but for June Steenkamp, the mother of tragic Reeva, nothing could change the life sentence of grief she and her husband have been dealt


June Steenkamp sees feathers frequently in her day-to-day life which have no reason to be there and remains convinced they are a sign that her daughter, Reeva, is looking over her.

“Reeva had a thing about feathers. She loved their delicacy and beauty. I started to notice little white feathers and I’d think, she’s here. I’m sure there are lots of things you cling to in grief as signs that the person you have lost has not really gone away, and it makes me feel better to believe that her spirit is still with us.”

June, 68, originally from Blackburn, Lancs, and her husband Barry are still trying to come to terms with the loss of their beloved daughter, who was shot dead aged 29 by Oscar Pistorius, then 26, who is now serving five years for his crime, following the highly publicised televised seven-month trial.

They had been South Africa’s golden couple. She a model on the brink of a lucrative TV career, he the double amputee Olympic and Paralympic hero known as the “blade runner”.

But June says she knew things weren’t right in the couple’s three-month relationship, and that she sensed Reeva was looking for an out.

Charged with murder after he opened fire through the locked toilet door of his apartment in Pretoria, where Reeva was cowering, Pistorius claimed throughout the trial that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder.

BOOK Steenkamp 09522005068
June Steenkamp

He was acquitted of murder but convicted of the lesser crime of culpable homicide, the South African equivalent of manslaughter, and, despite his five-year sentence, according to legal experts, he could be released under supervision after 10 months.

Last week, state prosecutors won their right to appeal against his conviction. They are seeking a murder conviction, and the case will now go before South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal. They lost their application to challenge the five-year sentence.

They have argued that Judge Thokozile Masipa misinterpreted the law when she ruled that Pistorius did not intentionally shoot Ms Steenkamp.

Meanwhile, June and Barry, a horse trainer, are serving their own life sentence without their daughter. June has written her version of events in her book, Reeva: A Mother’s Story, which charts Reeva’s life, her untimely death, the trial and what followed.

Speaking from her home in Port Elizabeth, she says she has found the last few weeks the most difficult.

“I’ve come out the other side, but it’s hurting me now more than it did right at the beginning. We never had time to grieve. It’s crystal clear now that I have to make my life without her.”

Their house is like a shrine, she says.

“Reeva’s possessions are all over the place. I wear one of her jackets all of the time. It’s like having her around me.

“I gave her a bracelet with a brass horse on and she loved it. I wear that often. It reminds me that she’s still around.

“I have all her books in my bedroom,” she continues. “I have her white linen on the bed. It’s a comfort to know she once slept in it, and that somehow her essence must still be there.”

She even sprays herself with Reeva’s Narciso Rodriguez perfume to drink in her presence.

BOOK  Steenkamp 09522564068
June with baby Reeva

June recalls that during the trial, she and Barry were given a room to go to during the short adjournments, and one day she found a scattering of white feathers under the open window there.

“A white dove came and sat on the windowsill. It was breathtaking. I felt it had flown there just for us; it was a sign from Reeva and I took a photograph of it to keep,” she writes. “When we left court that day, the dove was still sitting there peacefully.”

The first time June ever saw Pistorius was in court, where she remained silent and stony-faced. She says she’s forgiven him but she doesn’t believe his story
for a minute, and would like to meet him.

“I don’t quite know what I’m going to say but I think it’s only fair that he has to face Barry and I, because he’s taken a life away from us. He has to have that in his face. We won’t have her grandchildren, or her wedding. He’s taken so much. He’s robbed us of our lives.”

They haven’t yet made requests to see him in prison, but she is hopeful it will happen.

Since the trial, she says she hasn’t been coping well.

“I’ve become a bit of a recluse. I have the bar – she and Barry run a pub – The Barking Spider, but my husband’s been doing that work for me. He’s been very supportive, but it’s not easy. There is constant pain.”

They don’t want to do anything at Christmas, she says, as since Reeva has gone, there’s no joy for them during the festive season. The Christmas before Reeva died, she spent Christmas night with her boyfriend in Pretoria, the first time she’d spent Christmas away.

Instead, June is focusing her energies on starting up the Reeva Foundation, a women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Oscar Pistorius, Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva and Pistorius in 2012

“I’m keeping quite busy. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day and that helps. I definitely could
not have got through it without Barry.”

Controversially, it was revealed that the Steenkamps had received monthly payments of £345 from Pistorius from March 2013 until the end of the trial, which went towards rent and living expenses, but June says they’re determined to pay it all back; revenue from the book and paid interviews will go some way towards it.

She says she and her husband, who went bankrupt several years ago, would not have been able to see the trial through, had it not been for those payments.

“We didn’t want to receive it but we didn’t have any choice. We were bankrupt. We had no money. We were struggling to get from day to day. It was a temporary thing and all the money is going back to him. We are paying every cent back.

“They made offers – Pistorius made a separate offer of a £21,000 lump sum – which we didn’t want to receive, because it’s blood money. Reeva was priceless. No money in the world is going to make up for her loss.”
“I’ll never forget the way he did it. We both have nightmares about it, about her being trapped in that little space. Why didn’t he just leave her and let her go? She was packed ready to go. Texts that were read out in court highlighted their irritation with each other.”
But she doesn’t want to harbour anger about his sentencing.
“In a way, it’s not right, but I think he’s suffered a lot already. Nothing’s going to bring my daughter back so it doesn’t matter. He’s paying something in that he’s locked up. I’m just getting on with my life.”
Today, she is recognised in her local town wherever she goes. “Especially in Woolworths,” she says warmly. “I can’t get away without about 20 hugs and kisses when I go there.
“Some women come up and just cry. They feel so sorry for me. They’ve got daughters and don’t know what it would be like if they lost one.”
Her daughter’s spirit keeps her going, she says.
“Reeva won’t want to look down on my crying all the time,” she reflects. “Her advice would be to get on with what we’re doing.”

Reeva: A Mother’s Story by June Steenkamp is published by Sphere, priced £14.99.