Thursday 27 November 2014

Reeva's legacy: 'I hope people realise she was a really cool girl'

Published 08/05/2014 | 11:50

Reeva Steenkamp's friend journalist Hagen Engler found out about her death while proof reading an article about her shooting.

The former FHM editor, credited with giving Reeva Steenkamp her big break in modelling, was leafing through copy for the Daily Maverick on the death of Oscar Pistorius's new girlfriend and didn't immediately put two and two together. It wasn't until he read her name that he discovered his friend had been killed.

"It sort of just hit me that I know this girl. It took a while to sink in and when it did, I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a daze," he said.

Mr Engler grew up in Port Elizabeth, which Reeva called her home too. He says there was an element of small town solidarity that brought the two together.

"I knew her then, but she was just a little kid. By the time I saw her again, it was around ten years later and she was really getting into modelling. It was cool to see a mate from home succeeding and you do what you can to help them as well."

In the last year, Mr Engler said it has been bizarre to see the follow-up from the shooting, but he is not hopeful Reeva's tragic death will leave a lasting legacy in his home country.

"Unfortunately, that's going to be it. [She's] going to be [remembered as] Oscar Pistorius's dead girlfriend. The tragedy is she was on the verge of making some kind of breakthrough. She was so ambitious and so keen to make it. It's just another tragic irony that she makes it worldwide by getting shot dead," he said.

"I reserve judgement. He is a human being so he needs support. You feel sorry for him and the pressure that he's under, but if you do something like that you have to deal with the consequences.

"[I feel sorry for him] on one level, but on the other level, he killed a friend of mine," he said.

Mr Engler has fond memories of Reeva and her "wicked sense of humour" and he hopes she's remembered as the great person she was.

"If anything, I hope people realise she was a really cool girl. She had this great kind of emotional intelligence and could get on well with people that she just met. Hopefully people realise that she was just great."

Last year, South African online newspaper made Reeva Steenkamp joint person of the year, along with 17-year-old Anene Booysen, who was killed at the hands of a man she had feelings for. The young cleaner was raped and disemboweled at a construction site in South Africa's Western Cape last year.

"These two people epitomised what was happening in South Africa," said Daily Maverick CEO Styli Charalambous.

"These two major news stories, cut across racial and class lines and showed that despite what your upbringing , levels of wealth and opportunities were, there still was a very high chance that you would be, as a woman, affected by domestic violence in South Africa.

"Reeva's story will hopefully have some sort of a silver lining for women in South Africa, in that it shone a very bright light on this plague that's happening in our country."

Irish Independent

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