Celebrity Olympics sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who faces a murder trial in March for shooting his supermodel girlfriend three times, has issued a Valentine’s message of sorrow and regret about what he calls a “devastating accident.”
Reeva Steenkamp died of gunshot wounds in the early hours of Valentine’s Day one year ago at Mr. Pistorius’ swank Pretoria gated villa -- immediately vaulting one of South Africa’s golden heroes into an international spotlight of notoriety that earned him comparison to American football star O. J. Simpson.
Early Friday, Pistorius issued his first public statement since a tearful court testimony last spring. Offering “a few words from my heart” in a series of tweets, he wrote, "The pain and sadness – especially for Reeva’s parents, family and friends consumes me with sorrow,” adding that he will carry the “complete trauma of that day … for the rest of my life.”
The statement was placed on Pistorius’ website www.oscarpistorius.com and announced on Twitter at 1 a.m., just two hours before the exact time he shot Ms. Steenkamp one year ago.
Pistorius, a double-amputee known for sprinting with carbon-fiber prosthetic limbs, is the first Paralympian medal winner to compete in the Summer Games, which he did in London in 2012.
The runner was arrested shortly after a police investigation of the crime scene. Pistorius has steadily claimed he shot Steenkamp by mistake, thinking she was an intruder. The prosecution cites witness who heard shouting from the villa, and charges him with shooting Steenkamp, a law graduate and swimsuit model, after a personal argument.
Pistorius had, only months earlier, run in the 400 meter sprint in the London Games and been called an “inspiration” by the gold medal winner of that race. He quickly lost his lucrative sports endorsements with Nike and other firms. He was granted bail and lives under house arrest after being deemed by a court not to be a flight risk since his family and assets are in South Africa.
Pistorius is due to stand trial at Pretoria’s High Court for premeditated murder and possession of 38 unlicensed bullets discovered when police searched his home. The trial is expected to take three weeks, has a witness list of 107 persons, and is under petition to be televised. If found guilty he faces a minimum of 25 years in prison.
The blurry circumstances on the night of Feb. 14, 2013, and the charges and counter-charges, have earned Pistorius comparison to US football running back O.J. Simpson, who was tried and acquitted in Los Angeles for murdering his wife after what was deemed by the media "the trial of the century."
The legal team for Pistorius and his family advised their clients to keep their counsel despite intense public interest that has made "Pistorius" one of the most searched names in the nation on Google.
But it's understood that the athlete felt strongly that he wanted to express his personal sorrow and regret to Steenkamp's loved ones on the anniversary of her death, so issued a carefully worded statement with the lawyers' blessing following a family meeting Thursday, according to sources.
This week, as South Africa reflects on the devastating events that prompted a fall from grace of its Olympic hero, Steenkamp’s parents also issued a statement and confirmed that her mother would attend the trial.
"All we are looking for is closure and to know that our daughter did not suffer on that tragic Valentine's Day," they said.
"As the first anniversary of our beloved daughter's death approaches, we would like to thank all family, friends, the people of South Africa, and the world for their compassion, kind words and comfort shown to us, and for the many letters of condolences we have received."
They added that they would be setting up a foundation in honor of their daughter after the trial. "Reeva, who held such a passion for women's abuse issues and frequently spoke out against domestic violence, intended to one day open an establishment where abused women would be cared for,” they said.
Gwyn Guscott, a school friend of Steenkamp’s, posted a message on Facebook remembering her friend’s love of Valentine’s Day. On the day before she died, she tweeted: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay.”
“Tomorrow will be a tough one for most, but let's remember how much she loved love and fill our day with roses and remember her stunning smile and that little giggle she used to do when she had happy thoughts,” Ms. Guscott wrote. “To Reeves, I miss you every day."