Port Elizabeth - More than 17 months after model and TV star Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead by Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, her parents have broken their silence and told Hello! magazine of their fondest memories of their daughter, and of the last contact they had with her hours before her death.
In the world exclusive, June and Barry Steenkamp also took Hello! back to the seaside spot in their home town of Port Elizabeth where they scattered their daughter’s ashes and said their last goodbyes.
Reeva loved the sea, especially dolphins, and swam with two dolphins in the reality series Tropika Island of Treasure. “We released her into the elements she loved… To symbolise the release of her soul, we also set 40 doves free,” June told Hello! of her daughter, whom she affectionately called Reeves.
The 67-year-old said she had kept Reeva’s ashes in her bedroom cupboard for three months before she and her husband decided it was time to scatter them in the sea.
She told Hello! that the last time she had spoken to her daughter was at about 6pm on February 13 last year – just hours before Reeva was killed.
At the time, Reeva had just arrived at her boyfriend’s house.
June told her daughter she was worried that she would miss the screening of Tropika Island of Treasure because their satellite television had been cut off.
But Reeva, who assisted her parents financially, told her not to worry because she had deposited money into her mother’s account. “That was the last time I heard her voice,” June told the magazine.
By 7am, detective Hilton Botha broke the news to her and her husband that Reeva had been shot dead.
“I became hysterical. Then I had to tell Barry. His reaction… it was too terrible. We both went into what can only be described as a walking coma,” she recalled.
The next contact she had with her daughter was when Reeva’s body was flown home.
“Her body was swathed in sheets and a pale silk scarf was wrapped around her head. But she still looked beautiful. I kissed her and whispered: ‘I love you darling, and I am going to miss you.’ Then I collapsed,” June told Hello!.
She said she and her daughter had had a strong bond which could withstand the long distance between them after Reeva had left home to pursue her modelling career.
“But I feel strongly that Reeva’s still around us, that she’s not left us yet. I feel her presence and talk to her all the time. She’ll only rest in peace when this is over,” she said, referring to the trial.
On her feelings towards Pistorius, June said: “I’ve forgiven him. I have to – that’s my religion. It’s no good carrying evil thoughts about him because it will only destroy me.
“But I am determined to face him and reclaim my daughter. It’s important for him to know that I’m there, that Reeva’s mother, who gave birth to her and loved her, is there for her.”
The woman, who has been present every day of the trial, told Hello! that she attended court religiously because she was determined to find out the truth. She could not afford the costs of travelling but, thanks to women from the ANC Women’s League, she could afford a plane ticket.
June goes to court wearing a picture of Reeva pinned to her lapel, a pearl necklace Reeva bought her with her pocket money when she was 12 and an amethyst ring she had given Reeva for her 27th birthday.
She was convinced she could feel Reeva in court with her, she told the magazine.
“When her WhatsApp phone messages were read out, it was as if she was giving her own evidence.”
June said in the interview that it had been traumatic for her to hear the details of what her daughter had gone through.
“I get through it by withdrawing into myself and listening intently to what is going on. My strength and dignity come from God. But it’s not easy and I feel vulnerable inside.”
She said she cried when she went for counselling, but otherwise put on a brave face.
Reeva’s 71-year-old father, who had a stroke in April, has not attended the proceedings but told Hello! that he watched it on television.
“There are no cameras watching me at home,” he said.
However, he intended to go to court to hear the verdict.
“I’ve watched every minute of the trial and the replays and what the experts think. I feel I know what the verdict will be, but can’t give my opinion yet,” he told the magazine.
He also didn’t hate Pistorius, saying he felt for the Pistorius family.
June said in the interview that she had first learnt her daughter was dating Pistorius when a friend called to say Reeva had been seen with him on the red carpet at the SA Sports Awards.
At the time, she did not know who Pistorius was.
She told the magazine that Reeva had confided in her about other relationships, but revealed very little about her relationship with Pistorius.
She suspected that her daughter had been cautious due to the early stage of the relationship, and the publicity surrounding them.
Barry said: “If I’d known what I know now I would have attempted to stop the relationship.
“Reeva wouldn’t have liked me attempting to interfere but, as it turned out, she would have thanked me in the end.”
He became emotional when he told Hello! that he had been there for two tragedies in his daughter’s life – when she almost bled to death after having her tonsils removed, and when a horse fell on top of her, breaking her back.
Barry said he had worried about his daughter after she moved away from home, and that he “always felt somehow that she might be in danger”.
He told the magazine that his most treasured picture of her was when she modelled a wedding dress because “I’ll never see her in one”.
Reeva’s half-sister Simone, who left the UK to move back to South Africa after Reeva’s death, is also taking strain.
“Sometimes I want to hide away. I hold it together emotionally until I’m in my room. When I’m there on my own, I just watch films and TV to unwind,” she told Hello!
She said her place was to look after Barry and June.
“Since Reeva died, our lives have been on hold. We will only be able to continue with our lives when there’s a proper conclusion.”
Judge Thokozile Masipa, who is hearing the case against Pistorius, has said that the defence will hand in heads of argument on August 4, with argument to be heard on August 7 and 8.