Reeva Steenkamp: Remembering a friend

 

Gina Myers: "She texted to say she was staying out... why didn't we say 'come home'?"

Reeva Steenkamp's smiling face is hard to avoid in the Myers' family home in the suburbs of the South African city of Johannesburg.

It stares out from a dozen mounted photographs, and on two giant portraits sitting on the worktop in the small printing business that Cecil Myers runs from a converted garage.

There is no trace of Oscar Pistorius here. In a recent newspaper interview, Mr Myers said the Paralympic athlete could "rot in hell".

In the months before the model was killed, Ms Steenkamp lived with the Myers family, sleeping in a small upstairs bedroom, cooking pasta for Mr Myers, surprising her hosts with gifts of chocolate, and gossiping late into the night with Mr Myers' daughters - and Reeva's close friends - Gina and Kim.

"My dad is a mess. He used to call Reeva his favourite daughter. I think he feels because she was living here, that he didn't protect her, and so I think he feels like he lost a daughter and we feel like we lost a sister," said Gina, a make-up artist who met Reeva four years ago.

A photo of model Reeva Steenkamp with a member of the Myers family There are photos of Reeva Steenkamp all round the Myers' family home

"She texted us [from Pistorius's house] that night. You look back and ask - why didn't we just say 'come home'?"

Mr Myers, Kim and his son David were called to identify Ms Steenkamp's body hours after she was shot.

Today, Mr Myers declined to be interviewed, saying he felt unable to control his feelings or his tongue, but told me he had nearly broken down again when Ms Steenkamp's car was removed from their driveway this morning.

"I want Reeva's voice to be heard," said Gina, who admitted that she felt her friend was being overlooked by the frantic media focus on Oscar Pistorius.

"At the end of the day Reeva was killed. I want people to know her heart," she said.

"This was going to be her year to shine. She became part of the family here."

Valentine's Day gift

Gina declined to discuss her opinions about the shooting, or the upcoming murder trial.

She said she believed Ms Steenkamp was happy, both in her relationship with Mr Pistorius and more generally.

South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp arrive for an awards ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2012 Gina Myers believes Reeva Steenkamp was happy in her relationship

She said that Ms Steenkamp, despite being a beautiful woman with many male admirers, "could handle herself - she was a strong girl" - and not the sort of person to tolerate an abusive partner.

Gina said Ms Steenkamp was romantic and sentimental, and had only had two relationships - one lasting several years - in the time she had known her.

Start Quote

I hope by the end of the trial truth comes out and justice prevails”

End Quote Gina Myers

The Myers family had helped Ms Steenkamp to compile a collage of photographs of her and her new boyfriend to take with her as a Valentine's Day gift for Oscar Pistorius that night.

There is a largely unspoken, but increasingly clear sense of two rival camps now lining up behind Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp - and of an emerging proxy media war, waged by public relations companies, friends and some relatives.

Tuesday's news that reports of Mr Pistorius' "private memorial service" had been leaked to the media has been greeted with suspicion and disgust by friends of Ms Steenkamp's, who believe the athlete's supporters are waging an unseemly campaign to rebuild his reputation ahead of the murder trial.

Gina and her mother Desi are both planning to attend the trial in order to "represent" Ms Steenkamp.

"I hope by the end of the trial truth comes out and justice prevails.

"I have faith in Reeva - she'll make sure that justice prevails," said Gina with something close to a chuckle.

 
Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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