While the world reels in shock at the leniency of the judge’s sentence – with many calling for Oscar to be jailed for 15 years, the prescribed minimum term for murder – Kim Martin reveals she believes her cousin Reeva tried to reach out to her for help. And if she’d listened she might have been able to stop the murder.
It was February 14, Valentine’s Day, when news of the killing of South African model Reeva broke across the world. The 29-year-old had been shot four times through a locked bathroom door, by her boyfriend, Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius.
“I’ll never forget the last time I saw Reeva,” recalls 44-year-old Kim from her Cape Town home.
“It was January 2, just a few weeks before her death, and she brought Oscar to meet us. They dropped in on their way to a popular beach spot up the coast and we went to breakfast.”
But it wasn’t long before Oscar started to get agitated. “It was very strange, almost awkward. He was unhappy with the service at the cafe,” remembers Kim.
“He got up from the table to take a phone call. I asked Reeva quickly while he was gone if she was happy. She paused, shrugged her shoulders, and said very unconvincingly, ‘Yes, but we need to talk.’ I never had a chance to have that conversation.
“Looking back, I know that was the day she reached out to me – it was a cry for help. I never asked her to elaborate and that’s plagued and haunted me ever since.
“She was in strife. And it was too late before we all realised.”
In a trial that captivated the world, Pistorius pleaded not guilty to murdering Reeva and claimed that the killing was a tragic mistake, that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder when he fired through the toilet door.
Much to the dismay of Reeva’s family, he was initially found not guilty of murder, but guilty of culpable homicide – South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter – and sentenced to five years in jail.
After spending just 10 months behind bars, Pistorius was released and ordered to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest at his uncle’s luxury home.
Then, in December 2015, prosecutors successfully appealed the conviction. Pistorius was finally found guilty of murder.
It’s taken years for Pistorius to be dealt a fitting punishment, yet time has done little to dull the horror of his crime.
“I was in the car with my husband Dion,” recalls Kim of the moment she heard of Reeva’s death. “We were on our way to work listening to the radio. They said Oscar Pistorius had shot and killed his girlfriend.
“I knew even without hearing her name it was her. I thought, no, no please – not Reeva. I remember screaming hysterically, calling her phone and she wasn’t answering.
“I was completely engulfed by grief and then unbelievable guilt that maybe I could’ve saved her.
“Reeva was the first baby I ever held,” says Kim, flicking away tears. “I was 12 when Auntie June handed her over and I cradled her in my arms. There was an immediate bond between us that got stronger every day right until the day we lost her.
“That’s why I’m going to be her voice – and to make this my life’s work to continue her crusade to help others.”
Kim and Reeva’s mum June are joining forces to set up the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation (reevasteenkampfoundation.org) in her memory, to help educate the world about domestic abuse and violence. It will launch on August 19, which would’ve been Reeva’s 33rd birthday.
“When you consider the World Health Organization states that approximately one in three women experience abuse and domestic violence at some point in their lives, I knew I had to do this. The foundation is already getting extraordinary support – including from Australia,” says Kim.
“Domestic violence is very difficult to work with – it’s not like a cancer that’s picked up on a scan, and it doesn’t discriminate. It happens across all socio-economic groups. Who better to be the face of this than Reeva who I know would’ve fought so hard for her life,” she adds.
“I don’t believe Reeva was ever in love with Oscar. They’d hardly been together at all. They first met back in November, just a few months before she died.”
Asked if she thought Pistorius was the jealous type, Kim says, “Definitely, 100 per cent. I know he was driven by jealousy.”
Oscar may have finally been found guilty of murder but nothing can ease the pain of losing her best friend.
“Nothing will bring back our Reeva. For the rest of my days I’ll make sure the world never forgets Reeva Steenkamp – the kindest human being I will ever know.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call 1800 737 732 for support.
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