‘I could have saved Reeva’

2013-02-24 10:01

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He was always there for her. She always called him if she was in trouble.

When her car broke down, he was the one who went out to help. My Joburg dad, she called him.

Cecil Myers opens up to Hanlie Retief.

Last Friday, Cecil Myers was there for Reeva Steenkamp for the last time.

He had to identify ?her body.

Steenkamp was killed by three shots from the 9mm pistol of her Paralympian-champion boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius.

Pistorius says it was a horrible mistake. The state says it was cold- blooded murder.

“It was terrible, I couldn’t drive myself back home,” Cecil told City Press in an interview this week.

Reeva was like a daughter in his and his wife Desi’s house.

She had lived with them in Glenhazel, Johannesburg, since September, but she was actually part of their family for six years – their daughter Gina’s best friend.

Cecil met Reeva’s father for the first time at her funeral in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

“Her father introduced me to friends as ‘Reeva’s Joburg father’. He kept thanking me for being so kind to his daughter in Johannesburg, for looking after her.”

He laughs bitterly.

“But how well did I look after her? She was shot.”

Two images in the past week, two fathers involved in the same tragedy: Henke Pistorius right behind Oscar in court, tension and worry clearly evident on his face.

And on the other side, away from the cameras, the private grief, dismay and anger of Cecil Myers.

Cecil has now spoken about the tragedy for the first time.

“I’m talking because everywhere you go, it’s just Oscar, Oscar. But Reeva was the victim, her voice must be heard too. People must know who Reeva Steenkamp was.”

The Myers knew Oscar well. It was at their door that Oscar rang the bell the first time he took Reeva out. It was from this suburban house that the celeb romance started.

The last time Cecil and Desi heard from Reeva was late on Wednesday night, just hours before her death.

“I’ve got this thing with all three children (Reeva, and his daughters, Kim and Gina), if they don’t come home at night, they must text me. Then Reeva sent the (SMS) message: ‘Hi guys, I’m too tired. It’s too far to drive. I’m sleeping at Oscar’s tonight. See you tomorrow.’

“Tomorrow never dawned for her?.?.?. I have nightmares at night thinking how frightened she must have been. Can you imagine how terrified she was?

“That was the last SMS from her phone, probably about ten, ten thirty – the time they usually SMS.”

Early in the morning they got the news. “Gina was hysterical. She started screaming in her room: ‘Reeva is dead!’”

Cecil, Kim and his son David went to the Boschkop Police Station to identify the body. It was a chaotic morning.

In the confusion, they got lost, and, when they finally arrived, they had to dodge the media and were then told the body had been taken to Bronkhorstspruit.

In addition, the pathology professor had postponed the identification to the next day because no one was allowed to touch her body before the autopsy.

“We then followed the detective to Oscar’s house to collect Reeva’s car and belongings. What a nightmare.”

The terror is audible in his voice.

“At his house there were probably 20 policemen. I stuck my head in at the front door, saw a lot of blood on the floor of the entrance hall, and up the stairs.”

He remembers every detail of the identification at precisely 10.40am that Friday.

“We looked at her through a glass window. She was?.?.?.?you know?.?.?.?the way someone looks who has been shot?.?.?. The police tried to make it easier for us.

They said when we knocked against the window, they would take her out immediately to the van in which they then took her to Port Elizabeth.

“Luckily my son was there for me, because I broke down. The way she looked?.?.?.?that will remain with me forever.”

Cecil blames himself, wondering what he could have done to have kept Reeva safe, to have prevented this tragedy. It’s eating him up.

He’s overprotective of his daughters, he admits. “What father isn’t? I hate it when they go out alone at night. But what can you do? If I could have my way, they would never go out at night.

“That’s the worst for me: if Reeva had rather taken a chance and driven home that night?.?.?.?I should’ve texted her back: We’ll meet you halfway, then Desi and I will drive your car back. Then she would have been safe now.”

Only Oscar knows what happened, he says. “She can’t tell us any more.”

He believes the truth will come out.

“Whatever happens, whether he goes to jail or not?.?.?.?he can rot in hell. His conscience will get the better of him.”

Is he convinced Oscar is guilty of murder?

“She was my little girl, and he shot her four times from behind a closed door. One shot may have been a mistake – but four times?”

Cecil doesn’t want to watch TV any more.

He wakes up in the morning, goes to work, tries to keep his head clear, but then it hits him: “Newspaper headlines, posters – but where are the headlines that say Reeva was a good, good person?

“What a decent child?.?.?.?Her career was just starting to take off – I still teased her and said she would need a lawyer to handle her contracts, but she replied: ‘Got it covered’. She was a lawyer herself!”

Now he is the executor of her estate. “The sad wrap-up of a beautiful young woman who hadn’t even started her life yet.”

Reeva always spoiled her “dad” Cecil with two large choc chip yoghurts from Woolies – she knew well how much he liked them, he laughs.

And to her, as for his own daughters, he was always quick to tell them before a big date: “You don’t look good. Put on some other clothes.” Or: “Mmm, a million dollars! Enjoy your evening, but be careful.”

Just days before her death, Gina remembers, she was busy in the kitchen when she heard her father and Reeva talking about abuse of women and Black Friday.

“Reeva was determined to make a difference, to help abused women,” Cecil says.

“How ironic, the violence of her own death. What she stood for was the end of her.”

If Oscar was sitting opposite him now, what would he ask?

“Why, Oscar, why did you do it? I wouldn’t do anything to him, because when it’s finished and done, he must live with it.

“I hope he gets a long sentence. Gets what he deserves. People will stay away from him now. Women too, they will be too afraid, no girl wants her a**e shot off.

“And if my daughter wanted to go out with him, the pawpaw would hit the proverbial fan.

“I have a printing business, and I had large, framed photographs of Oscar and myself. I smashed them all. I don’t want to know anything about him.”

What was Oscar like?

“Moody, I think. Very nice and charming to us when they started dating. Then he always came in to say hello. But when they began to date steadily, he just dropped her and picked her up. That’s not right. I call it respect. If you’re in a relationship and you pick up the ‘daughter’ in the house, at least come in and say hello.”

Cecil remembers their first date, shortly after she broke up with her former boyfriend.

“She went with Oscar to a sports-awards evening. And after that he wouldn’t leave her alone. He kept pestering her, phoning and phoning and phoning her.

“Oscar was hasty and impatient and very moody – that’s my impression of him.

“She told me he pushed her a bit into a corner. She felt caged in. I told her I would talk to him. I told him not to force himself on her. Back off.

He agreed, but his face showed me what he was thinking: ‘Oh, this guy is talking nonsense.’

He did cool down a bit. Then they started going out steadily, and she was more at his home.

“I once talked to her about Oscar’s moodiness. She didn’t answer me.”

The day before Valentine’s Day Cecil helped Reeva choose photos she wanted to have framed to give to Oscar as a Valentine’s Day present.

“What a Valentine’s Day.”

He takes Oscar’s testimony that he and Reeva were madly in love with a pinch of salt. “I think she loved him, but it was no massive love affair.”

Was he ever worried about Reeva and Oscar?

“My answer to that is ‘no comment’, and that’s probably enough of an answer. There’s a dark side to him. And all we’re left with now is a huge emptiness.”

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