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The day before Reeva Steenkamp died, she was writing her Valentine's card.

The day before she died, Reeva Steenkamp – model, lawyer, soon-to-be reality star – had her thumbs busy on Twitter.

If her feed was anything to go by, Steenkamp was quite partial to the platform, tweeting often and easily. Among the updates of her life and career came messages of love for her partner of four months, Oscar Pistorius.

There were also impassioned pleas for the protection of women who are victims of violence and sexual abuse.

On 13th February 2013, Reeva married two of her most common Twitter themes in what permanently stands as a haunting lead-in to her final hours.

In one tweet, she wrote: “Wear black this Friday in support against #rape and woman abuse. #BlackFriday.”

Soon after, Steenkamp posted: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay.”

The following day – Valentine’s Day, of course – she arrived at Pistorius’ home in Pretoria, her arms as full as her heart. She brought with her a card and a gift for her boyfriend.

Image: Getty.

Inside the card, Reeva had written: “Roses are red. Violets are blue. I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you." But she had made Pistorius promise he would not open it until the following day.

At about 10pm, she sent a text message to a man by the name of Cecil Myers, the father of one of Steenkamp's best friends, Gina. The model had been living with the family since September and considered him her "Joburg dad" while she was living in the city. Such is the protective nature of a father, he often asked Reeva and his daughters to message him if they weren't intending to come home that night.

"Hi guys, I’m too tired," Steenkamp wrote. "It’s too far to drive. I’m sleeping at Oscar’s tonight. See you tomorrow."


Five hours later, she was dead.

The finite details of what exactly transpired between Steenkamp's last text message and her murder dominated the news cycle in months and years to come, the prosecution and defence in public combat for control over the narrative.

Publicity came thick, fast and furiously. A beautiful, intelligent, loved woman was found dead in the bathroom of one of South Africa's most popular athletes, shot three times. He - Pistorious - was the man who made such good from early misfortune. Despite having both tibias amputated at just 11 months old, Pistorious made both the Paralympics and Olympics, known affectionately across the world as the Blade Runner.

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For the first 26 years of his life, Pistorius was known as the inspiring athlete. For the rest, he would be known as a murderer.

In the days, weeks and months after Steenkamp's death, the public narrative became as much about justice as it was hijacked by public relations experts.

As Andrew Harding wrote for the BBC a fortnight after her death: "There is a largely unspoken, but increasingly clear sense of two rival camps now lining up behind Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp - and of an emerging proxy media war, waged by public relations companies, friends and some relatives."


The media were consumed by two separate story lines: Reeva, the woman killed by her violent and controlling boyfriend. Oscar, the man consumed by grief and loss who was only trying to protect the woman he loved from a burglar in his home.

Within a week of her death, Pistorius was charged with murder after both the prosecution defence agreed Pistorius fired four shots through a locked toilet door, hitting Steenkamp, who was inside, three times. Pistorius claimed he thought Steenkamp was in bed and there was an intruder in his home. The defence believed he put his prosthetics on, walked across the house and deliberately shot at Steenkamp through the door, defying her screams.

To make an already public case harder, two weeks after Steenkamp died, Hilton Botha, the lead detective in the prosecution's case, was dismissed after his own attempted murder charges emerged.

The trial was marathon-like, beginning on March 3, 2014 and not concluding until that September. In that time, the court heard just three weeks before she died, Steenkamp sent Pistorius a message, accusing him of jealousy and possessiveness.


Image: Getty.

In one of them, CNN reports Steenkamp told Pistorius "I'm scared of you sometimes, of how you snap at me".

"You have picked on me incessantly," she wrote, calling Pistorius "nasty" after he accused her of flirting with someone at a party.

In September, after a long an arduous trial that included a 30-day mental evaluation for Pistorius in a psychiatric hospital, the athlete was found not guilty of murder and instead found guilty of culpable homicide, which refers to "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being". A month later, he was sentenced to just five years prison.


The years after Pistorius’ initial sentencing were confusing, complicated and awash with mixed messages and pushback from a public who felt both the verdict and sentence were too lenient.

After serving only 10 months of his five-year sentence, Pistorius was released and put under house arrest in October 2015. The following year, the supreme court of appeal (SCA) appealed against the culpable homicide conviction of 2014, later replacing it with a murder conviction and a six-year sentence, sending him back to jail in July 2016.

Three years after the very first verdict and sentencing, in November last year, the SCA increased Pistorius’s sentence from six years in prison to 13 years and five months.

It is, Steenkamp's family hope, the end of a five-year legal saga that shone a light on their daughter, her at times dysfunctional relationship with one of the world's most celebrated athletes and the cruel, tragic nature of her end.

Five years ago to the day, Reeva Steenkamp was tweeting about love. About celebrating love, about her own love, about universal love. Five years ago to the day, Reeva Steenkamp was also tweeting about the abuse and violence of women.

It's a harrowing tragedy that on the night she died - on a day of love - her two last tweets collided in one of the world's most talked-about and despaired murder convictions of our time.