Memories of Reeva the person

“God bless”, was Oscar Pistorius’ parting shot as he left Kim and Dion Martin’s house in the Cape Town suburb of Sunningdale in January 2013.

This was the only time they met the new boyfriend of Kim’s 29-year-old cousin, model and law graduate, Reeva Steenkamp.

A month later, he killed her. Pistorius’ sentencing – he could serve only 10 months in jail – sparked outrage. But back in Sunningdale, Kim and Dion Martin are sick and tired of hearing about Oscar.

While the National Prosecuting Authority decides whether or not to appeal, Kim, Dion and her three children from a previous marriage, Jason, Gypsy and Rain, want to move on with their lives.

“I mean it was so hard to sit in court and hear Oscar portrayed as the victim,” says Kim.

“For our healing, I don’t want to think about Oscar any more. All we want to think about now is Reeva.”

Kim tells how she sent phone messages to Reeva after she died. “I felt so guilty, I sent her messages: ‘I’m so sorry, Reevs, I couldn’t protect you!’ No one deserves to die like that.”

Their lounge is adorned with framed photos of Reeva – 12 years younger than Kim – as a little girl with dark curls and later as a beautiful model.

This is the same house Reeva stayed in for 10 months while she kick-started her modelling career in 2011. She loved cooking but her efforts received mixed reviews. “No man, steamed chicken breasts and steamed vegetables all the time! Skinny model food, you know,” says Dion, laughing.

They remember Reeva hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner round a 10-seater table decorated with miniature heart-embellished mugs at their home.

Kim took the stand at the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday. Onlookers went quiet when, for the first time during the trial, the courtroom was filled with memories of Reeva the person, not Reeva the lifeless body.

Kim says her court testimony was a miracle, given that she’s not a good public speaker. And she struggles to find words to describe State prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, the Steenkamps’ hero.

“He really is the most amazing man you could ever meet. Gerrie isn’t into niceties, he doesn’t say anything to make you feel better.

“He is just so focused, and really and truly, with all his being, believes in his case.”

While they were in Pretoria, Kim and Dion stayed at a guesthouse a block away from Arnold Pistorius’ three-storey Waterkloof mansion where Oscar lived.

The tension between the families was palpable in court during the 49-day trial.

Oscar’s sister, Aimée, sparked a media frenzy when she approached Kim with a scrap of paper in the first week of the trial, in which hand-written condolences were paid to June and Barry Steenkamp.

“I called Aimée and said ‘we appreciate it but please just respect that it’s not the right time’. I said to her to best leave us alone until the case is done.

“I mean I felt very sorry for her. She must have been very nervous. She was trembling and crying.”

Kim says she sensed Reeva was troubled in the days before her death. “I thought it was pressure about her parents and their financial trouble.”

Kim and Dion are convinced Reeva was about to break up with Pistorius. The tragedy has brought Barry and June closer together again: they were separated at the time of Reeva’s death.

June will spearhead the opening of a centre for abused women in their hometown of Port Elizabeth.

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