For 49 days last year, the eyes of the world’s press were focused on a courtroom in South Africa as the distressing, complex trial of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.
Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, after firing four shots through a locked bathroom door. His defence rested on the fact that he believed the person behind the door to be an intruder.
At the time, I was working as a digital editor at the Telegraph, and through manning live blogs for long chunks of the trial, coordinating headlines to match the updates coming in from South Africa, I became immersed in the visceral, upsetting detail.
This week, Pistorius was released, less than a year into his already short five year sentence, having been found guilty of culpable homicide – the South African equivalent to manslaughter. I wrote this piece for the Independent, reflecting on the message a decision like this send out to women. Writing the piece brought back memories of the problematic way the case was covered by many of the tabloids in this country, probably others. Pictures of Steenkamp in a bikini – she worked as a model as well as a paralegal – were plastered over front pages, when her real body was lying in a morgue, so badly injured that images caused Pistorius to sob and vomit repeatedly into a bucket while in the dock.
This time round however, she’s more conspicuous by her absence. There are pictures of the elegant, spacious mansion, a regal redbrick building, where Pistorius will reside, and compassionate news pieces proclaiming Pistorius ‘in need of healing’, but Steenkamp has been edited out of the story, a footnote to the drama.
Tomorrow, Steenkamp’s mother June will give a speech her daughter had been due to give the day she died. Steenkamp often gave motivational talks at schools to highlight issues faced by women and victims of abuse. While her mother’s heart must be broken, that seems a good way to remember #HerNameWasReevaSteenkamp