Pistorius, Steenkamp families face-to-face in court

2014-03-03 20:41
June Steenkamp (Foto24)

June Steenkamp (Foto24)

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Pretoria - Two families sat on the same wooden bench in the North Gauteng High Court on Monday, one mourning their beloved daughter Reeva Steenkamp, another supporting Oscar Pistorius, the man charged with her murder.

Amid the media circus, pointed legal arguments and delays, the two families whose lives have been utterly transformed by the events of 14 February 2013, came face-to-face.

In the front row of the public gallery Reeva's mother June Steenkamp, clad in black, sat stony-faced as a witness described the "terrified screams" of a woman in the early morning hours of that Valentine's Day.

She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief and from time to time looked over toward the man with whom her daughter seemed so besotted just weeks before her brutal death.

She looked on as the star athlete - in a black suit and tie, clean-shaven and his hair cut short - sat just 8m away, jotting down notes.

"I want to look at Oscar, really look him in the eyes, and see for myself the truth about what he did to Reeva," she told a British newspaper before the trial.

His demeanour was calm, a far cry from the sobbing figure he cut during his bail hearing immediately after killing Steenkamp.

It was the first time the two saw each other in person. The athlete gave little indication of recognising his slain girlfriend's mother.

During a short recess, June stood up alone and looked toward the athlete, who sat with his back to the public gallery.

She then sat down, throwing an angry glance to his relatives sitting to her left.


At other times tensions between the two clans were subtle, but manifest.

At the end of a string of members of Pistorius's friends sat elder brother Carl, directly next to one of Reeva's friends.

They left a small space between them, facing slightly away from each other and studiously avoiding eye contact.

Carl, who bears a striking resemblance to his younger brother, at times appeared impatient, while his sister Aimee looked weary.

Their father, Henke, who is not close to his children, was not present.

When court adjourned the Steenkamps took the long way to the single exit to avoid having to slide past the Pistorius family.

Nervous wait

Both families had a nervous wait at the start of the day.

The trial started over an hour late after an Afrikaans-to-English interpreter pulled out at the last minute, perhaps spooked by the fierce scrutiny the trial would bring.

Three discreet cameras, mounted in the two front corners and in the back of the room, broadcast much of the testimony live around the world.

As the session wore on the interpreter's decision seemed prescient, as the replacement made occasional translation mistakes, leaving many in the gallery shaking their heads.

The families also had to wait as court officials escorted a woman - who identifies herself only as Annemarie and who twice before disrupted Pistorius bail hearings - out of the courtroom.

"I know Oscar's character. I knew him before this," she said, repeatedly asking that Pistorius undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

She claims to be the ex-wife of the surgeon who amputated the athlete's legs when he was a young boy.

Diminutive Judge Thokozile Masipa, wearing a red toga, was business-like and in control of her courtroom.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  pistorius trial

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