Wednesday 22 October 2014

Pistorius to 'reach out' to dead model's family

Athlete would 'suffer' alone if his story isn't true, says Reeva's father

David Smith in Johannesburg

Published 24/02/2013 | 04:00

ACCUSED OF MURDER: Oscar Pistorius in the dock of a Pretoria magistrates court. After being released on bail on Friday the Paralympic gold medallist told his uncle that the ‘family of Reeva is on his mind all the time’.

Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius is expected to make contact with the grieving family of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he admits shooting dead at his home, his uncle said yesterday.

The athlete, who is accused of murder, spent eight nights in a police cell in Pretoria before being released on bail of R1m (€85,480) on Friday. He was driven to the luxury home of his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, who said the athlete wanted to reach out to the Steenkamps.

"We don't want to put him under pressure but while we were in the car, that is what he said," Arnold told the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA). "The family of Reeva is on his mind all the time and he knows his purpose would be to be part of the family in future."

It is not clear whether the Steenkamp family, who cremated their daughter last week, are ready for such a gesture. The late model's father, Barry Steenkamp, told South Africa's Beeld newspaper that Pistorius would have to "live with his conscience" if he was lying about how he had killed her. The athlete would "suffer" alone if his claims that he mistook her for a burglar were false, he said.

The warning came as what appeared to be Pistorius's first public comment on the case turned out to be the work of a hacker. "Thank-you to every person that has prayed for both families, Osca", said a message on his brother Carl's Twitter account. A spokeswoman for Pistorius said: "The tweet is not from Oscar or Carl. We can confirm that Carl's Twitter account has been hacked during this very tragic time. We are busy cancelling all the social media sites for both Oscar's brother and his sister."

The London Paralympic gold medallist, staying with his family at his uncle's house in the exclusive Pretoria suburb of Waterkloof, was visited by parole officers and a counsellor yesterday. Under his bail conditions he cannot drink alcohol, return to his own home or leave the country and must report to a police station twice a week.

Karyn Maughan, a legal journalist at eNCA who has been following the case, said: "I strongly suspect his legal team will bring a challenge to the bail conditions. There was a degree of shock from both the defence and the prosecution that the magistrate added eight or nine conditions that hadn't been sought."

The condition that Pistorius be subjected to random alcohol and drug tests had caused particular disquiet, Maughan added. She also said that, according to his coach, Pistorius was due to see a psychiatrist on Tuesday. "Apparently he's not sleeping."

The 26-year-old faces months of anxiety and detailed preparation before his next court appearance on June 4. His agent, Peet van Zyl, played down reports that Pistorius could be training again soon. "Oscar's got far more important things to worry about than training and that's why I've cancelled all his meetings locally and internationally," he said.

Pistorius was pursued to his uncle's home on Friday by the media, who then set up camp outside. Big-money bids are said to be coming in for his story. "Everybody wants to interview him," van Zyl added. "We're not going to do any interviews at this time. We'll sit down with the lawyers and make a decision."

The double amputee does not face the future alone. At the heart of "Team Pistorius" is his family which, it became clear in court, is deeply religious and close-knit.

When the magistrate ruled that Pistorius would be released, they shed tears and embraced in a circle, heads bowed in silent prayer.

Pistorius's father Henke and brother Carl sat behind him during the four-day bail hearing, occasionally reaching forward to place a consoling hand on the shoulder or back of the trembling, sobbing star. Carl could also be seen typing on a laptop or iPhone, tweeting commentary.

Carl hugged his sister, Aimee, another fixture in court, when she wept at Friday's decision. Aimee's tweet, on February 19, says: "Reeva's family in my thoughts today."

But it is uncle Arnold who has emerged as the family's spokesman, talking to journalists in the courtroom and, on Friday, maintaining his composure and dignity as he addressed a huge media contingent .He released a statement after the athlete's first night out of custody yesterday. "This constitutes a moment of relief under these otherwise very grave circumstances. We are extremely thankful Oscar is now home."

The family was coming to terms with Steenkamp's death and Pistorius's part in it, he added. "What happened has changed our lives irrevocably. As a family it drew us closer together, supporting and encouraging each other, praying for Oscar whom we love and who remains our son, brother and nephew. We have all been deeply affected by what transpired.

"We are acutely aware of the fact that this is only the beginning of a long road to prove that, as we know, Oscar never intended to harm Reeva, let alone cause her death."

He added: "We realise that the law must run its course, and we would not have it any other way."

The statement was released through Vuma Reputation Management, a Johannesburg-based firm that specialises in brand-building and crisis communications for clients such as mining firm Anglo American Platinum, Colgate and First National Bank. It has begun the long process of trying to rehabilitate Pistorius's public image by overhauling his website.

Oscarpistorius.com now has black borders, a statement about "the recent tragic events" and photos of Pistorius in action, smiling with children and posing on the front of the New York Times magazine. It says messages of support are being received "in the thousands".

Vuma's four-strong team has taken over day-to-day public relations from former Sun editor Stuart Higgins, who was in court on Tuesday handing out photocopies of Pistorius's affidavit to journalists, but then flew back to Britain and took a backseat role.

© Observer

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