One Tragic Night: New Excerpt

One Tragic Night by Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman is the detailed account of the famous murder trial of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius for the death of his fiancé (available October 14, 2014).

At 08:03 on the morning of Valentine’s Day 2013, news broke that Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic superstar known as the “Blade Runner,” had shot and killed his girlfriend at his luxury home in Pretoria, South Africa. Within minutes, the story reverberated around the world as banners flashed across television screens broadcasting global news networks. At first glance, it appeared to be a heart-wrenching, tragic accident. The athlete had mistaken beautiful Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder. But as the morning unfolded, a second version of events began to reveal itself, indicating that the country’s celebrated icon, its “Golden Boy,” may have murdered his model girlfriend in a fit of rage.

In this vivid and insightful narrative, South African journalists Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman reveal the true story of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, from that horiffic night to the announcement of the shocking verdict. Drawing on evidence from the trial as well as on-the-ground interviews with family and friends of Oscar and Reeva, this is the authoritative account of one of the most high-profile trials of the 21st century, from the night of the killings to the controversial verdict. .The square porcelain toilet is on the left of the space, the lid up against the cistern. The right half of the seat is smeared in a thin film of red, cascading into the bowl below in thick ribbons, separated by strips of white where it appears running water has washed it clean. The macabre sight of the dark red water in the bowl, where one would expect to see sanitized blue, jars. Floating on top of the water are globules of varying sizes, creating the appearance of oil in the water. So murky is the liquid in the bowl that a spent bullet projectile would not be visible to investigators and would be missed during an initial inspection of the site.

The trail leads out past the toilet door, alongside the shower, across the tiles towards a crumpled charcoal bathmat and a pile of soaked pebble-grey towels and on to a worn cricket bat with its perished rubber grip partly torn from the handle.

The trail has settled in various shapes – there are smears, drops, crowns and larger puddles where it seeps away into the grouting. There are flecks on the screen of a black iPhone 4 and its metallic cover, partially hidden under the bathmat, and droplets on the handle of the silver-and-black Taurus 9 mm fire­ arm, which has been abandoned on the mat with its hammer cocked and the safety off. Droplets crowd around the cricket bat, itself marked by squiggled wisps along the blue-and-yellow ‘Lazer’ text and the chevron logo. The signatures of famous cricketers along the face of the bat have not been saved from the indignity of being tarnished, but investigators only discovered that when turning the bat over hours later.

Nearby is a fragment of a hollow-point, strands of hair entangled in its jagged metal claws. There are three spent cartridges on the tiles in the bathroom: one near the bath, one near the cricket bat and a third at the entrance. A fourth lies in the passage near the cupboards, its copper casing marked by the black residue of spent gunpowder and its distinctive head stamp ‘WCC +P+’ identifying the bullet as Winchester-produced hollow-point ammunition.

There are dark red spots on the two square white basins, where his and hers toothbrushes rest neatly alongside each other, and on a toilet roll parked in the cabinet of the dark-wood vanity. While the flecks on the basins could be missed at a glance, there is no ignoring the blatant smear on the tiled pillar alongside. The streaks mark where her soaked blonde hair swept past as he carried her out of the bathroom, her head resting on his left arm. He had to navigate his way over the towels, wood panels and splinters as he rushed through the doors and then down the passage lined with clothes cupboards into the bedroom. The trail bears testament to this journey that was her last.

At the end of the passage, the trail makes a sharp turn through the bedroom after passing a tall four-tiered bookshelf, a washbasket and a pair of smart black suit shoes. On the left it avoids a chocolate-brown leather couch, her white flip- flops and her black-and-white Virgin Active kitbag, a black bra peeking out from the unzipped opening. There is no spatter on the side table that holds an extreme sports magazine, a silver damask lamp, a squeezed tube of Voltaren gel, and a white coffee mug holding the dregs of the previous night. But, inexplicably, there are a couple of stray drops on the wall above the bed and the ebony headboard.

The spatter also does not make it as far as the right side of the bed alongside the sliding doors that lead out to the balcony, where an iPad, its cover and a grey T-shirt have been left on the floor next to a pair of men’s hair clippers. The contents of the drawer on this side of the bed include an array of sexual lubricants, pellets for a pellet gun, playing cards, Mickey Mouse plasters, a USB stick and a spare firearm magazine containing Ranger ammunition.

His rushed exit from the bathroom, with her in his arms, left several marks on the contents of the bedroom. Experts suggested this was the result of so-called arterial spurt – sprays from the devastating wounds to her body as her heart continued to beat. One spurt, likely occurring as he rounded the bend from the bathroom passage towards the bedroom door, reached around a metre and a half along the carpet onto a grey duvet, which had a pair of inside-out jeans resting on a corner.

An open leather-wrapped  watchcase  containing  eight high-end timepieces was spattered and four streaks of red, resembling cracks in the glass, show where her hair flicked past, while speckles are visible on the watches themselves. The box rests on a dark chest of drawers, next to a silver amplifier with an iPhone cable dangling from it, two BlackBerry phones, a silver Tiffany & Co. bracelet, a packet of syringes in a plastic bag and a plastic container, along with several boxes. Spatter also landed on the tall aluminium-and-glass Oakley stand next to the drawers, housing in excess of 40 pairs of sunglasses in varying shades and shapes. Next to the cabinet rests a black air rifle and a small blue baseball bat, indicators perhaps of his heightened security awareness.

The trail is more obvious again where carpet meets tile at the doorway and there has been no opportunity for it to soak away. The bedroom door itself is damaged – not only from speckles of blood but there is also a small hole in the top third of the door caused by a projectile, scuff marks near the spine and a section of the wood is cracked at the bottom near the latch.

The horrifying path of arterial spurts – vertical lines on the walls and tiles – trace the route he followed out the double doors of the bedroom, across the upstairs lounge past the TV unit, the flat screen, surround-sound amp and headphones on the left and the tawny faux-suede couch and ottoman on the right. A red line stretches from the ottoman across to the L-shaped couch. It fol­ lows his route past an open linen cupboard stacked with towels and sheets that have been left dishevelled as a result of a scramble to find something, anything, to stop the haemorrhaging. A blue hand towel lies abandoned on the floor next to the cupboard.

The trail follows his route across the landing towards the stairs, past two paintings of bushveld savanna in heavy wooden frames and a tall wooden sculp­ ture on a metal stand. All along the cream eggshell-coloured  walls are sprays in a serpentine pattern. The splotches are reminiscent of cuttlefish, with their bulbous heads and long twisted tentacles.

  Some of the spray reached over the silver balustrade down to the lounge below where drops landed on the beige leather bucket chairs and couch, raw-wood wine rack, animal-skin ottoman and pillow, and Ngunihide rug. It is in this room that the trophies are paraded, witnesses to years of success and achievement. Their polished sheen has escaped blemish.

There are maroon drops on every step leading down to the ground floor – on the mottled tiles, the walls and streaked on the balustrade as if a paintbrush has been flicked deliberately and violently. Finally, the trail stops at the bottom of the stairs where the body lies. The woman, once a paragon of beauty and grace, now lies broken and damaged, drained of life.

She lies on her back, stretched out with her head closest to the main entrance of the house. Those who were amongst the first to arrive on the scene were met by this harrowing sight as they threw open the doors. Her legs are splayed, revealing the cursive ‘Lioness’ tattoo on her left ankle and the shimmering pink polish on her toes. The light-grey Nike basketball shorts are soaked red on her right side where a bullet struck her hip. Her head is cocked to the left, away from the staircase, and her left hand rests on her exposed navel, showing the wound on the webbing between her index and middle fingers. Her black vest has been pulled up to below her chest and a white ECG electrode pad peeks through on her right breast. The white stickers from the ECG pads have been discarded near the staircase where paramedics left them in their haste. Her right arm, destroyed by a wound to the elbow, is bent unnaturally at her side and a light towel has been draped over her bicep – a hasty tourniquet abandoned when it became clear that any attempt at stemming the flow was in vain. There is another towel at the wood skirting and several black plastic bin bags to the side. Her head, devastated by the wound high above her right ear, lies on a black-and-white pat­terned towel. Her right eye is bruised grey over the lid, reminiscent of the smoky eye shadow she was painted with for model shoots. Her manicured eyebrow has halted a trickle of blood from her forehead onto the bridge of her nose. The rim of her nostril is bright red and a thick line runs at a 90-degree angle across to her left cheekbone, as if it has been drawn across her face with a stick of lipstick gone awry. Her lips are pale.

She lies where he left her. It is here, at the foot of the staircase, where others tried to help her, where the paramedics came, scrambled and then had to walk away. In the pre-dawn hours following her death, police officers arrived on the scene to investigate. They made their way through the house following the trail from her body up to the primary crime scene in the toilet cubicle where she was shot. A photographer recorded the images for posterity. The spatter, the bullet jackets, the cellphones, the cricket bat, the gun and the door would all later be scrutinised as investigators hunted for the truth.

And then finally, only once the sun was already high in the sky over Silver Woods estate, would members of the pathology services arrive to remove her from where she had died, leaving a bloody chaos at the bottom of the stairs where the trail had gone cold.

• • •

The narrative that follows up to page 30 is based on the court testimony of witnesses and is in line with each individual’s interpretation of events, not necessarily fact.

Estelle van der Merwe glanced over at the clock. It was 1:56 am and she was irritated. She had had barely five hours’ sleep and knew that her 11-year-old son was writing an exam in the morning and was probably also being kept up by the disturbance. Her husband Jacques lay asleep in the bed alongside her, apparently oblivious to the voice wafting over the warm night air across the Silver Woods estate.

Estelle couldn’t hear what the fight was about or even what language the woman was speaking, but to her it sounded like an argument. The voice was loud and the breaks and pauses suggested she was speaking to someone else – who was it? Estelle couldn’t hear a second voice.

She got out of bed to peer out of a window, looking towards the Farm Inn, a small nature reserve neighbouring the estate, but she couldn’t see anything and went back to bed. Out of desperation and annoyance, she folded a pillow and put it over her head, hoping it would shut out the persistent voice. She heard it go on and on for about an hour before she finally dozed off.

An hour later, four ‘plofgeluide’ (‘thuds’ or ‘bangs’) shook her awake again. Then there was silence.

This time her husband had also been jolted awake and Estelle anxiously asked him what the noise had been.

‘Gunshots,’ he responded. Jacques got out of bed to look out of the windows, but could see nothing out of the ordinary. He climbed back under the covers next to her. But then the sounds of a commotion caught their attention once again. Jacques called the estate security to establish what was going on and moments later they both heard what sounded like someone crying in the distance.

‘Who’s crying?’ asked Estelle. She was in shock, felt paralysed and too scared to get up herself to see what was happening.

‘It’s Oscar,’ said Jacques, which confused her because it sounded like a woman who was sobbing.

The couple didn’t know Oscar well, but Jacques had occasionally chatted to the athlete when they happened upon each other in the street. He was a friendly neighbour, always willing to offer a smile and a wave when leaving his house. When the men did talk, the topic was usually cars.

Terrified, Estelle slowly climbed out of bed and joined her husband at the window.  Together  they watched  as several  cars began  to arrive  at 286 Bush Willow Crescent. Eventually an ambulance pulled up and they saw it drive off again minutes later, lacking the urgency with which it had arrived.

• • •

Michelle Burger shot up in bed just after 3 am, jolted awake by what she believed to be the blood-curdling screams of a woman in distress. Her husband Charl Johnson heard them too and lifted his head from his pillow to make sure what he had heard was real and not a dream. Charl leapt out of the bed and ran onto the balcony to focus his ear on what had pierced the early-morning silence. The couple had left the windows wide open – it was a warm evening and the lack of air conditioning made the bedroom stiflingly uncomfortable.

They had lived on the Silver Stream estate, adjacent to Silver Woods, for about two years and their house was 177 metres from Oscar’s home. Standing on the balcony, Charl heard what he thought to be a terrified woman calling into the night, clearly distressed and in trouble. ‘Help … Help,’ he heard. Then what sounded like the voice of a man, also calling for help three times. Was this an armed robbery gone wrong? Both Charl and Michelle wondered.

‘Charl!  It’s  no  use  standing  there,  call  security!’  shouted  Michelle  to  her husband out on the balcony. As he rushed back inside, Michelle reached for her cellphone on the bedside table. Frantically she scrolled through her phone’s contact book and dialled the number saved under ‘Security’. It was 3:16 am when she passed the handset to Charl.

They hoped the estate’s security officers could call their colleagues at the neighb­ouring complex to alert them to what seemed to be a terrible attack in progress.

When the call was answered, Charl rapidly explained that there were people being attacked, but he was met with confusion on the other end of the line. The guard who had answered handed over to a colleague and Charl repeated the story. When the second guard still didn’t respond, the penny dropped. Charl realised that the number Michelle had dialled was for security at the Strubenkop estate, several kilometres away, where they had previously lived. Realising the error, Charl ended the call, which had lasted 58 seconds, and ran back out on to the balcony.

All that separated their house from the source of the noise was a few spin­ dly poplar trees and an open field, and from the bed, Michelle could hear the screams becoming increasingly intense. She could only think about how scared the woman sounded. Charl sensed the fear in the voice escalate and to him it was clear that the woman was in imminent danger.

 And then, just as the screaming reached a climax, it was brought to an end by four cracks.

First one shot, a slight pause, and then three more. Bang. Bang, bang, bang.

The couple heard the woman scream again and then the final scream fad­ ing out after the last crack. Alarmed and shocked by what he had heard, Charl stepped back through the balcony door into the bedroom.

'I hope that woman didn’t see her husband being shot in front of her,’ said Michelle to her husband.

They did not hear the voices again that night but the memory of the shrill scream stayed with them, haunting them.

• • •

Annette Stipp was feeling slightly fluish and was battling a troublesome cough that woke her up just after 3am on Valentine’s Day. The occupational therapist, her radiologist husband Johan and their three children live in the Silver Woods estate, with a clear line of sight of the home of Oscar Pistorius. The kids had gone to bed at around 8:30pm the previous night and the couple settled in to watch a few episodes of a TV series before going to bed at 10:30pm.

Nearly four and a half hours later, Annette’s cough woke her. She looked at the digital clock radio on her husband’s bedside table. It was 3:02am but she knew that the clock was set three or four minutes fast.

Annette lay in bed contemplating what to do about her cough, wondering if she should bother getting up to have a drink of water or just ignore it. Finally, she resolved to get up to fetch a drink. She didn’t want her husband to be disturbed by her coughing.

As she was climbing out of bed, she was startled by what sounded to her like three gunshots.

‘What was that?’ Annette asked her husband.

‘I think it’s gunshots,’ he responded as he jumped out of bed and rushed out onto their balcony.

Annette looked across to the row of houses directly opposite their own. She could see the lights on in two of the homes. She sat on the edge of her side of the bed and focused her eyes on Oscar Pistorius’s house and noticed the light was on in his bathroom.

Moments later, they heard the screaming. Three, four times, they heard what to them sounded like a woman screaming, loud and fearful. The type of screaming that made the doctor think the woman must be scared out of her mind. Johan knew that there was a serious problem and looked around, trying to establish where the noise was coming from. From the balcony he was standing on, he could clearly see the houses in the row opposite his own, separated by an open stand.

He focused his eyes on Oscar’s house and he could clearly see the window of the athlete’s bathroom, where the lights were on.

Together the couple stood on the small bedroom balcony, trying to ascertain the source of the screaming. They then moved onto a bigger balcony, which they hoped would give them a better view. The screaming continued and Annette couldn’t help but think there was a family murder playing out in one of the neighbouring homes.

Johan knew he had to alert someone quickly and hurried back into the bed­ room, grabbed his phone and called the estate’s security number. There was no answer.

He punched in 10111, the police’s emergency number, and hit the call button but he had no luck with that either. There was an unusual dialling tone, as if the number was out of order. Annette went inside and tried to raise the alarm using her own phone.

Meanwhile, Johan Stipp was still trying to get through to the police and get dressed at the same time. He was worried that children might be in danger and he wanted to go out to help. As he battled to think what number to dial next, he heard three loud bangs ring out.

The doctor didn’t know if the same shooter had opened fire again or if some­ one else had begun shooting. ‘Get away from the windows!’ he shouted at Annette, trying to keep her out of harm’s way.

The  Stipps’  domestic  worker  Osterella  Ntombenkosi   Mkhwanazi  also heard the gunshots. She was in her room on the ground floor, at the back of the house. Osterella was woken up by what she first thought was a baby crying next door. She listened carefully and realised it sounded as if it was a woman crying. She was still trying to work out where the noise was coming from when she heard ‘boom, boom, boom’.

Johan Stipp’s phone finally connected to security and he told the guard on the other end to please come quickly; there was an emergency. As he put the phone down he heard a man scream for help three times.

• • •

Mike Nhlengethwa slept right through the bang that woke his wife Rontle. She nudged him awake, asking him if he had heard the noise. The electrical engineer, his wife and their daughter live to the left of Oscar’s house in Bush Willow Crescent in the Silver Woods estate. Both homes are of a similar design and the same putty-grey colour. The balcony off their main bedroom is just 18 metres from Oscar’s balcony and a mere 11 metres from his bathroom window.

Mike momentarily lay still, waiting to see if he could hear another bang, but all was quiet. His immediate concern was that the noise was emanating from inside his house and he worried about his daughter who was sleeping in her room, across the passage from theirs.

Unable to hear any further noises, Mike got out of bed and went straight to his daughter’s room. The family has a habit of locking all the bedroom doors when they are asleep and he was relieved to find her door still securely locked. Mike thoroughly checked the rest of the house on the upper and ground floors, ensuring that the doors and windows were all still secure. Satisfied that all was as it should be, he returned to his wife in the master bedroom.

While her husband had been out checking the house, Rontle had heard someone shouting for help three times. She had heard the voice loudly and was certain it was a man. Just then Mike walked back in to the room and peeked through the blinds.

‘No, there’s nothing in the house. So it means it is outside,’ he told her. As he widened the blinds to get a better look, he heard the piercing cry of a man – the voice of someone who sounded as if he was in shock. The Nhlengethwas both thought the person must have been badly hurt and needed urgent help. They could tell the cry was different to that of a man who was merely sad – this person was in danger. The high-pitched wailing stopped for a short while and then con­ tinued again. ‘Hey, I wonder, maybe it was a security guard that was patrolling. Maybe something happened to him?’ Mike asked his wife.

All he had heard was, ‘No, please. Please, no.’

Mike continued to peer through the blinds but he was cautious not to switch on the lights in his house. He didn’t want to give his position away and was alert to whatever danger might be lurking right outside his window.

A similar scene was unfolding in the Motshuanes’ house, which neighbours Oscar’s on the right. Rika Motshuane had been woken by what seemed to her to be the sounds of a man crying in pain. She roused her husband Kenneth, urgently asking him if he had heard what she had.

‘Yes, I heard, but I thought I was dreaming,’ he responded.

‘The crying is real,’ she told him, beginning to panic.

Like the Nhlengethwas, Rika thought it might be a security guard who had been injured. Dogs were barking and the crying was very loud and very close – so close, in fact, that she thought it could even be inside her own house.

The couple couldn’t work out where the noise was coming from. Stricken by panic, they lay frozen in their bed and didn’t dare reach for the lights.

Back at the Nhlengethwas’ place, Rontle remained seated on the edge of her bed, frightened into silence. But when Mike decided he was going outside to investigate, she found her resolve.

‘There’s no way I’ll allow you to go out,’ she told him.

But together they reached a compromise and agreed that Mike should phone security, and at 3:16:13 he dialled the number from his cellphone. The first attempt didn’t connect so he tried a second time at 3:16:36. The call lasted 44 seconds.

‘It’s Michael from number 287. Can you quickly come up and check what is going on here? There is a person desperately crying and I’m sure he needs help,’ Mike told the security guard on the other end. He also asked security to check the houses of his surrounding neighbours. The guard confirmed they would investigate.

As Mike ended the call, he continued to peer through the window. He could still hear the crying and in the distance a car driving up the street. He assumed it must be the estate security already responding to his call.

• • •

Pieter Jacob Baba reported for duty at 6pm on 13 February. He had been working at the Silver Woods estate for nearly two years and had assumed a position of seniority there. Baba was the shift leader and one of five security guards working the night shift. He was responsible for a supervisor who patrolled the estate in a dedicated vehicle, a guard who patrolled on a bike, another who worked the gate and a fourth person who was responsible for general duties.

Not long after Baba clocked in for work, a beautiful blonde pulled up to the boom in her Mini Cooper. Baba knew her as Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend and they shared a brief joke and a smile before she drove through into the estate. A few minutes later, the Olympic athlete drove up in his white BMW, chatting on his cellphone at the time.

At 8pm, as per normal, Baba and his colleagues closed one of the access gates to the estate and then an hour later, at 9pm, they shut all the gates. They needed to ensure the safety of the complex and this was the optimal way of doing so. As part of this function, the guards on duty also had to comply with a ‘guard track’ that saw them check in at various points around the estate a certain number of times per hour.

That particular night, a guard by the name of Nyiko Maluleke was responsible for doing this clock-in patrol. Having completed a circuit of the estate, Maluleke came to fill Baba in on the situation in the estate that evening. He told his supervisor that the Van der Merwes’ gate was open, the Stipps’ balcony sliding door hadn’t been closed and a small gate leading to another resident’s home was ajar. It was a hot night, which explained why the Stipps had left their balcony door open, but Baba thought it best to send the other residents text messages from his official phone, telling them about their open gates.

In the early hours of the morning Baba decided to patrol with Maluleke. At around 2:20am they drove down Bush Willow Crescent and checked in at Guard Track Point Two, located right outside Oscar Pistorius’s neighbour’s house. Everything was as it should have been that night; at this point there was nothing unusual to be seen or heard, and Baba and Maluleke returned to the gatehouse just before 3am.

Minutes later, Phillemon Ndimande, the guard on bike duty, entered the gate to report that he had heard gunshots. It wasn’t long before the official phone line began to ring with residents reporting having heard gunshots in the estate.

Phone records showed that the first call came at 3:15:51 from Dr Johan Stipp, who said he had heard gunshots and told Baba to come and see what was going on. The second was from Mike Nhlengethwa, Oscar’s direct neighbour at 3:16. His first call did not go through, but his second attempt connected. He called to say that he had heard bangs. None of the residents could say which house was the source of the action.

Baba immediately sprang into action and sent Ndimande back out on his bike to try to gauge where the gunshots were coming from. He also phoned Jacob Makgoba, who was patrolling in the official security vehicle, ordered him back to base and told him he wanted to drive around the estate with him to try to find the source of the shots.

They drove straight to the Stipps’ house, where they found the doctor standing on the small balcony outside his bedroom, waving them down and pointing across at Oscar’s house.

• • •

Through his bedroom window, Mike Nhlengethwa had a clear view of the open plot at the back of his house. Across the field, he saw a white security vehicle pulling up to a house he would later find out belonged to the Stipps. Mike watched as the security guards stepped out of the car and he could see them talking to the owner of the house.

Standing on the balcony, Johan Stipp explained to Baba that he believed the shots and screams were coming from Oscar’s house and they should investigate. As the guards drove off, Stipp moved on to the bigger balcony and watched as they made their way towards the row of houses opposite. Stipp looked towards Oscar’s house where the lights were on in the bathroom and noticed a figure moving in the bathroom, from right to left. He had the distinct impression that it was a man.

Meanwhile, as Baba drove away from the Stipps’ house, the guard’s phone rang. It was Oscar. Phone records show that the athlete phoned security at 3:21:33 and that Baba called him back at 3:22:05. But despite this, Baba maintained that he made the first call to Oscar. He also recalled the runner saying to him,

‘Security, everything is fine.’ The athlete’s version is different, saying he told the guard, ‘I am fine.’

During the call Baba realised that Oscar was crying. He turned to his colleague Makgoba and told him that everything was not in order but before he could say anything further, the phone line went dead. Moments later the guards pulled into the driveway of the athlete’s house.

Johan Stipp still felt compelled to act despite security already being en route to the scene. He was concerned that there might be children involved in the incident and, having kids of his own, he was worried it could be a family tragedy.

He quickly dressed, climbed into his SUV, drove first to the guardhouse at the entrance to the estate, to check if it was safe, and then proceeded to Oscar’s home.

Mike Nhlengethwa had watched the exchange between the Stipps and Baba. Initially he remarked to his wife that the crying must be coming from the Stipps’ house. But then he saw the security vehicle speed away. It made a left turn and did a loop, passing his own house. Moments later, a white SUV also pulled out from the Stipps’ house and made a right turn, doing a loop in the opposite direction.

Mike realised that the disturbance must be closer to his own home and moved to another room in the house to see if he could get a better look. His study looks onto Bush Willow Crescent and, peeking through the horizontal wooden blinds in that room, he saw the security vehicle pull up in front of Oscar’s house.

He knew his neighbour relatively well. They often greeted each other on the street and just days before Oscar had introduced Reeva Steenkamp to Mike as his fiancée.

Mike knew he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep and now that security had arrived, it seemed safe to go outside. Like Johan Stipp, he felt the need to go to see what was happening. He threw on some clothes, switched on the lights and went downstairs.

Rika Motshuane heard a car pass by her home and turn into the street outside Oscar’s house. Overcoming her fear, she got out of bed and looked through a window that faced in that direction. From the window she saw a Mini Cooper coming to a stop in Oscar’s driveway.

Rika climbed back into bed but struggled to sleep. She was still shaken and wondered what had happened. Then she heard another car. Again, she looked out the window and saw that a security vehicle had also arrived at the house.

Rika urged Kenneth to phone security to find out what was going on. The guard told him they were  taking  care of the situation  but offered no fur­ ther details about what was unfolding at their neighbour’s house. But the Motshuanes knew the situation was grave. The screams had been terrifying.

• • •

It was 3:19:03 when Johan Stander’s cellphone rang. He looked at the handset and saw that the caller was Oscar Pistorius. At that hour of the morning, he knew it must be urgent.

‘Oom Johan, please, please, please come to my house. Please. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please, please, come quick,’ was how Stander would later recall the conversation.

The voice on the other end of the line was desperate.

Stander and Oscar first met in May 2009 when the Standers moved into the Silver Woods estate. The athlete arrived at their home in Summerbrook Close, several blocks from his own house, and offered to help them move their furniture in. Over the years they became increasingly friendly – Oscar and Stander’s daughter Carice Viljoen became friends, occasionally meeting for coffee, and Stander looked after Oscar’s dogs when the athlete travelled overseas to train and compete.

Stander’s wife woke up as he scrambled out of bed and headed for the bed­room door. As he opened it, Carice came out of her bedroom.

‘I heard someone screaming for help. Someone’s in trouble,’ she said to her father.

‘It must have been Oscar,’ Carice’s mother explained. ‘He called your dad and said he shot Reeva.’

It was the screams for help and not the phone call to her father that woke Carice.  The petite blonde,  a legal adviser  by profession,  had gone to bed at around 8 or 9pm the previous evening, as per usual. It was a hot summer night and she left the sliding door to her balcony open and the room’s blinds pulled all the way up. In the early hours of the morning, she was startled by her dogs barking in her room where they usually sleep. Annoyed and tired, she lay in bed thinking about how she would have to get up and close the sliding door so that her dogs didn’t rush out onto the balcony and wake the neighbours. But she could hear other dogs in the neighbourhood barking too.

Just as she was about to roll out of bed, Carice heard a person shouting, ‘Help! Help! Help!’ It was a man’s voice, she was sure.

Carice froze. Her first thought was that she had to close the sliding door because someone could climb up to her balcony and she could be in danger. The neighbours’ dogs began to bark even more and Carice slipped out of bed and went to stand at the sliding door. She dropped the blinds, leaving them tilted very slightly and left the door open a crack. She kept her ear at the opening to hear where the sound came from – she couldn’t tell, but she knew someone needed help.

Her heart pounding, Carice shut the door and latched it. She closed the blinds and climbed back into bed. The dogs remained restless, and she was afraid. She contemplated what to do next. Her heart was beating furiously and she knew she wouldn’t be able to settle back to sleep. Her dogs were at the foot of her bed and continued to bark madly so she reached for them and brought them close to her in the hope of calming them down. She pulled the covers back over herself.

As she lay in bed, she suddenly picked up movement in her parents’ bedroom, which she could see into from her own room. She saw the lights going on and that her mother and father were both awake.

Again, Carice quickly got out of bed and ran to find out what was going on and to tell her parents she had heard someone screaming for help. In the pas­ sage, Johan and his daughter decided they needed to get to Oscar’s house as quickly as possible and that she would drive them.

Carice raced downstairs, pulled her silver Mini Cooper out of the garage and waited for her father in the street. When he finally appeared, she was so anxious she struggled to push in the clutch to change gears.

She chose the quickest route, driving fast around the corners to Oscar’s house nearly 600 metres away. The trip was so short that Carice later estimated that only three minutes passed between Oscar’s phone call to her father and the time they arrived at his house.

As Carice pulled up outside the house, she brought the Mini to an abrupt halt in the street and she and her father rushed up the driveway. There were already men standing on the pavement and she asked them what was going on, but they were confused and didn’t know.

Frank Chiziweni, the man who works at Oscar’s house, was there. So too were the three security guards, Baba, Makgoba and Ndimande. Baba could see on the neighbours’ faces they were worried that something serious had taken place.

Through the two vertical glass panes alongside the large double wooden front doors, Carice could see the lights on in the house. She could also see that one of the doors had been left slightly open. As she rushed up the narrow tiled pathway, between rectangular ponds on either side, she glimpsed a man making his way down the staircase inside, a woman in his arms, her head and limbs dangling lifelessly.

Her father and the three security guards trailing behind her saw him too. Carice put her hand on the wooden door and, without much effort, it swung open, revealing something of the nightmare that had unfolded inside.

• • •

From the second Carice walked into the house, she could see that Oscar was dis­traught. He was walking fast down the second flight of stairs from the landing; Reeva was in his arms, her bloodied head resting on his left forearm.

Johan  Stander  noticed  the  immediate  relief  on  the  runner’s  face  as  they stepped through the door, perhaps because help had arrived. Stander could tell that Reeva had suffered a terrible head wound.

Baba, the security guard, was in shock. He was so flabbergasted he couldn’t quite grasp what he was seeing and only regained ‘consciousness’, as he put it, when he heard Carice shout ‘Oscar!’ According to Baba, the athlete had told him on the phone that everything was fine and yet what he saw now was in direct contrast to what he recalled the man saying to him. He chose to remain outside the front door rather than rush in to help.

‘Carice, please, Carice, please, can we just put her in the car and get her to the hospital?’ Oscar begged.

‘No, can you please just put her down so we can see what’s wrong?’ she responded.

Oscar placed Reeva at the foot of the stairs. All Carice could see was blood. Oscar was, however, desperate for them to put Reeva in a car and rush her to hospital.

‘He was a young man, walking down the stairs with a lady, with a young woman in his arms and the scene you see, the expression on his face … the expression of sorrow, the expression of pain. He is crying. He is praying. He is asking God to help him. He was torn apart. Broken, desperate, pleading. It is difficult really to describe and his commitment to save the young lady’s life. How he begged her to stay with him. How he begged God to keep her alive,’ Stander later recalled about the events. ‘I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I feel it.’

Oscar put his fingers in Reeva’s mouth to try to keep her airway open so that she could breathe. He was kneeling on one side of Reeva with Carice on the other. He continued to plead with Carice to rush Reeva to the hospital. Stander stepped outside to phone for help and call for an ambulance.

On the pavement outside, Stander instructed Baba to call the police and paramedics. He also issued instructions to Makgoba and Ndimande. Makgoba was to wait at the gate to escort the police and ambulance to the scene while Ndimande was responsible for keeping the area outside the house clear. Then Stander got on his own phone and tried to call for help.

Inside the house, the scene was frantic.

‘Oscar, we’re phoning the ambulance. Just wait. Let’s see what we can do,’ Carice responded to Oscar’s persistent requests to get Reeva to a hospital. She knew they had to stem the bleeding and that she needed towels to do this.

Carice ran upstairs to the landing and, in the dark, grabbed a bundle of towels from the linen cupboard, dropping one on the floor in her haste.

 She could hear Oscar praying, pleading with God to save Reeva’s life and also pleading with Reeva. ‘Stay with me, my love … Stay with me,’ he begged.

Carice scrunched up the towels and pushed them down on the wounds to try to stop the bleeding. She then tried to make a crude tourniquet with one of the towels to stem the flow on Reeva’s right arm. She knew she had to tie it as tight as possible and asked Oscar to help her by holding one side while she pulled the other.

Then she lifted the elastic of Reeva’s white shorts and, like a sea, a rush of blood was released. Oscar put pressure down on the towel, trying to dam the flow.

In the frenzy of trying to stop the bleeding, Carice glanced up at her friend and asked, ‘Oscar, what happened?’

He looked back at her and said, ‘I thought she was an intruder.’ She chose not to ask him any more questions.

The towels, however, weren’t stemming the flow so Carice asked Oscar for bags and tape in order to tie the fabric even tighter. At this point he still had his fingers in Reeva’s mouth, trying to help her breathe, so when he stood up to fetch bags and tape, he asked Carice to take over.

By the time he returned with bags and tape, Oscar was still desperate for the paramedics to arrive and kept asking, ‘Where is the ambulance? Where are they?’ So Carice decided to go outside to her father to find out how far away help was, although she must have known that in reality it was already too late for help.

• • •

As  Johan  Stipp  navigated  his  Prado  around  the  corner  into  Bush  Willow Crescent, he took in the scene on the pavement outside the modern grey double-story home. He had no idea who the house belonged to but had gathered that this must be where the screams and shots he and his wife had heard earlier had originated. It was also in this house that he believed he saw a man walking behind a lit bathroom window, from right to left.

There was a car parked in the street outside the house and he pulled up behind it. A man was leaning against a white BMW in the driveway. The man motioned him nearer and directed him towards the door. A woman was standing in the doorway.

‘I’m a doctor. Can I maybe be of assistance? Can I help?’ Dr Stipp said to Johan and Carice.

Stander instantly suggested Stipp go in to see if he could help. As Stipp made his way inside, he stopped and turned back to Stander. He thought it important to clarify his status, just in case.

‘I’m actually a radiologist,’ said Stipp, before walking through the door.

Back inside the house Carice explained to Oscar, ‘There’s a gentleman, he’s a doctor.’ They were both relieved that someone with medical expertise had arrived.

Stipp saw a woman lying on her back at the bottom of the staircase. He also noticed a man he didn’t recognise to her left, kneeling over her on the side closest to the kitchen. He had his left hand on her groin and the second and third fingers of his right hand inside her mouth. Stipp bent down next to the woman.

‘I shot her. I thought she was a burglar and I shot her,’ was the first thing Oscar said to him as he knelt down.

Stipp’s medical training kicked in. He tried to open the woman’s airway and look for signs of life. She had no pulse in her neck. He checked her wrist but there was no peripheral pulse either. He was positioned on the side of her badly dam­ aged, broken right arm. The woman showed no signs of breathing and she seemed to be clenching down on Oscar’s fingers as he was trying to open her airway.

Stipp thought to try what is known in medical circles as a ‘jaw lift manoeuvre’ in order to open her airway but he struggled because her jaw was still clenching down on Oscar’s fingers.

He could find no signs of life at all. Stipp opened the woman’s right eyelid and could immediately see that the pupil was fixed and dilated and that the cornea was milky. This was the telltale sign for him. It was already drying out so it was obvious that the woman was mortally wounded.

During Stipp’s attempts to revive Reeva, Oscar was still praying and crying. He prayed to God please to let her live. She could not die. He vowed to dedicate his life and her life to God if she would only live and not die that night.

Now that the urgency had dissipated, Stipp took time to look over the wom­an’s body and assess her injuries. He noticed the wound on her right thigh and hip and another on her right upper arm. As he searched further, he noticed the blood in her hair and what appeared to be brain tissue around the right area of her skull. It was obvious to him that there was nothing left for him to do for her.

Mike Nhlengethwa had dressed and walked over to see what the commotion was about at his neighbour’s home, leaving his wife Rontle in bed. In the street he identified the security vehicle he had watched driving away from the Stipps’ house and he could hear crying coming from inside Oscar’s home.

He  recognised  Johan  Stander  standing  in  the  driveway,  greeted  him  and asked, ‘Johan, is Oscar okay?’

‘Hey, Oscar’s okay, but I think it is better you go and check yourself inside,’ was the best response Stander could muster.

Mike walked towards the front door. Inside he could see Oscar kneeling next to a woman who was covered in blood. Oscar was crying and there was another man with him. Oscar was pleading with the man to help him, repeating, ‘Please, please help.’

Mike couldn’t handle the scene playing out before him and retreated to the door where Stander was still trying to get hold of emergency services.

Stipp stood up and walked outside, leaving Oscar kneeling on the floor next to his girlfriend’s body. ‘Ja, it’s very bad,’ said Stipp to Carice. He then reached for his own phone and called the trauma unit at Wilgers Hospital. They instructed him to phone private ambulance service Netcare and he gave the number to Stander.

At 3:27:06 Stander dialled 082 911. Stipp took the phone and spoke to the dispatcher, describing the injuries. At one point, Carice took the phone and attempted to give the dispatcher directions to the scene.

In the meantime the security guard, Baba, had made several calls of his own. He had alerted the police at the Boschkop police station and had contacted the control room of his security company. He had also tried to get hold of an ambulance.

It took less than 20 minutes for the emergency services to arrive at Silver Woods estate. Oscar and Carice stayed at Reeva’s side during the agonising wait, while Stipp periodically went inside to check on her status. Her condition did not change.

Stander, who had not heard any of the shots or the screams and had sim­ ply responded to Oscar’s distressed early-morning call, asked Stipp what had happened. Had he heard anything? Stipp explained he had heard four shots, silence, screams and then another four shots. And while he had initially been baffled as to what had led to the screams and the shots, he now had a better understanding, having witnessed the scene first-hand. He also knew there was nothing more he could do to help the woman lying inside the house.

When the Netcare ambulance finally pulled up, Carice dashed outside to the pavement, shouting, ‘Just come quick, just come quick!’ The emergency workers offloaded a stretcher but they struggled to get it through the doors to the house.

Once inside, the paramedics rushed to assess the patient. They lifted her black vest and placed white ECG electrode pads on her chest to check for any signs of life.

Oscar was in a state. He kept asking the paramedics to do whatever they could to save Reeva’s life. ‘Let’s just step aside so that they can work on her,’ Carice said to Oscar and the two retreated to the kitchen nearby. Emergency officials followed them into the kitchen to make sure Oscar was all right and to check whether they could phone anyone for him.

At the foot of the staircase, the frenzy had calmed. It had soon become appar­ ent to the paramedics, as it had been to Dr Stipp, that there was nothing more they could do.

The paramedics asked for Reeva’s ID and Carice explained to Oscar they needed Reeva’s handbag so they could get her driver’s licence or ID book. Oscar said it was upstairs and went off to fetch it while Carice remained downstairs with the medics.

From the doorway, Stipp realised what was playing out and turned to Stander.

‘Do you know where the gun is?’ he asked. It was obvious to him that Oscar was overwrought and he was concerned that the athlete might hurt himself. Stander had no idea where the firearm was. He went inside and asked his daugh­ter, ‘Where’s Oscar going?’

Carice noticed that Oscar had disappeared and then she too clicked. She remembered him telling the paramedics that the gun was upstairs in the bath­ room. She too thought he might shoot himself. Carice looked at her father, leapt up and raced up the stairs, calling Oscar’s name. She stood at the top of the stairs, which was still in darkness, shouting, ‘Oscar, please just bring the bag quickly!’

She could hear him walking across the tiled lounge and then his footsteps fell silent as he stepped onto the carpet in the bedroom.

‘Oscar, please just bring the bag,’ she panicked, fearing the worst.

Moments later, he came back out, handed her the bag and walked down the stairs.

Reeva Steenkamp was declared dead at 3:50am.

• • •

‘Please, Oscar, just let me know who I can phone for you. Somebody needs to come,’ Carice urged her neighbour and friend. She could see he was fumbling with his phone. They were standing in the kitchen area and his attempts to make phone calls were punctuated by bouts of vomiting.

Finally, however, Oscar managed to dial his friend Justin Divaris, but seemed to be making no sense. Carice took the handset from him and explained to Justin what had happened. The same thing happened with his call to Peet van Zyl, his agent. Oscar then called his brother, Carl.

Mike Nhlengethwa waited for the paramedics to leave before departing him­ self. He watched as the paramedics carried the stretcher back out and loaded it into the ambulance, empty. It was then that he knew the woman was ‘no more’.

When he got back home, all he could tell his wife was that he didn’t know what had happened, but somebody had died.

Johan Stipp hung around for a while, exchanged numbers with Stander and then drove home. He walked back into his bedroom at around 4:20am. Stipp told Annette that a man had killed his girlfriend. She asked him what the man looked like. He explained that he was very muscular and had tattoos on his back but he hadn’t paid much attention because his primary concern was the woman. It was only later that day that Stipp worked out who the shooter was and the scale of what he had witnessed.

• • •

As he pulled up to the Boschkop police station at around 3:30am on Valentine’s Day, Lieutenant-Colonel  Schoombie  van Rensburg  was reflecting  on what a busy night it had been for his officers.

He had spent the past few hours at the Mooikloof Ridge estate on Garsfontein Road in Pretoria East, around 15 kilometres from the Silver Woods estate and one of many similar upmarket security enclaves in the city, protecting the wealthy from the threat of industrious criminals. The Boschkop police station covers a large swathe east of the capital, much of which comprises such security estates.

The colonel had been on duty in Mooikloof with his team, investigating an armed robbery that had been reported. He had left the scene and driven back to the station to collect the medical registers because one of the suspects arrested in Mooikloof had been transported to hospital. Van Rensburg wanted to make an entry in the register and also check on the night shift at his station.

Perhaps it was fortuitous, perhaps rotten luck. But as the colonel walked into the Boschkop police station in the dead of the night, the telephone rang. It was a report of a shooting at the Silver Woods estate.

Van Rensburg had a problem, one that is all too characteristic of police stations in South Africa. He didn’t have a car to send to the scene to follow up. One of his vehicles had transported the suspect arrested at Mooikloof to hospital while the other was still on the scene with other members of his team. Because his was the nearest motor vehicle to the scene, the responsibility fell on him to respond.

The station commander turned to a low-ranking constable in the charge office and asked her to accompany him. Constable Christelle Prinsloo told her commander she knew the location of the address they had been given and the two jumped into Van Rensburg’s car and raced out to Silver Woods. They pulled up to the address at 3:55am – five minutes after Reeva Steenkamp had been declared dead.

The first observation the colonel made was that there was an ambulance parked outside with its rear doors open. He also noted a dark-coloured Mini Cooper and a white BMW as well as the security checkpoint the estate guards had set up, controlling access to the house.

Van  Rensburg  made  his way  through  the checkpoint  and  into  the house where, at the bottom of the flight of stairs, he saw a body covered in towels. As the police officers entered the foyer, a female paramedic approached them to inform them that the woman was dead on arrival. Together they removed the towels and the black bags that had been tied to the woman in haste, desperation and in vain. The paramedic pointed out the wounds to the head, the right side of the victim’s hip and to her right arm, above the elbow, as well as to the left hand.

Once he had finished inspecting the corpse, Van Rensburg’s next task was to establish the course of events that had led to the shooting. For this he needed to speak to the shooter and examine the scene.

He made his way further into the house, towards the kitchen, where Oscar was standing with Carice. A veteran police officer, Van Rensburg would have observed the pops of colour and evidence surrounding him as he took stock of the situation: the rectangular gift wrapped in striped red, silver and white paper; the pink heart-shaped sweets in clear cellophane resting atop the present; the white envelope addressed to ‘Ozzy’, underlined by a swirly line and two hearts; the dark-wood and chocolate-brown leather photo frames; an image of a man on a superbike; all would have stood out. So too would the orange and metallic- grey miniature Lamborghinis on the granite kitchen counter and a 9 mm Luger bullet, standing upright like a soldier on the roof of one of the toy cars.

Van Rensburg found Oscar emotional, in tears and vomiting. Because he was in civilian clothing and even though his colleague Constable Prinsloo was in full uniform, the policeman introduced himself by his official rank, Lieutenant- Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg from the Boschkop police station. He felt it was important that the man knew he was a police officer. Van Rensburg asked Oscar what had happened but the athlete was simply too emotional to talk, and there was no answer.

Carice  was  standing  with  Oscar,  talking  to him  and  consoling  him.  Van Rensburg questioned her about the plastic bags around the body because he was concerned why they had been placed there. Carice explained to him that Oscar had called her father asking for help and that when they arrived, they found him carrying Reeva down the stairs.

As Carice spoke, Oscar paced up and down around the centre island. Van Rensburg thought it best to ask him to stand on the furthest side of the kitchen, near the basin, as far away from the body as possible.

Realising the status of the accused, the high profile of the crime and the circumstances surrounding the shooting, Van Rensburg knew he would need to get the very best investigators on the scene, quickly. He immediately got on the phone and began making calls.

He gave orders and issued instructions for medical officers, fingerprint and forensic experts and photographers to get to the scene. Many of his staff had spent a large chunk of the night working the earlier case in Mooikloof so he had to be mindful of that. Fortunately, one of his best detectives, Captain Hilton Botha, had not been called out earlier so he was at home and available. Botha was one of the most experienced and knowledgeable detectives stationed at Boschkop. While Prinsloo made many of the calls issuing Van Rensburg’s instructions, the commander thought it best to make personal contact with Captain Botha.

• • •

‘Oscar’s shot his girlfriend,’ Hilton Botha turned and said to his wife Audrey after ending the call on his cellphone. His phone had rung just after 4am – it was his commander instructing him to go to the scene in Silver Woods to handle the case. With 24 years’ experience in investigating murders, Botha was the man for the job.

Both Botha and his wife knew exactly who ‘Oscar’ was. It wasn’t only because the captain had investigated a previous assault case involving the athlete – Oscar had achieved such fame, such prominence, that a surname wasn’t required for him to be identified in South Africa.

It took only 15 minutes for Botha to reach Oscar’s house and report to Van Rensburg. His first observation, with his detective’s eye, was the amount of blood in the house and the body, covered in towels, lying at the foot of the staircase. He was quickly  brought  up to speed. He was told how Oscar carried  Reeva down the stairs, how he gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, how Oscar and Carice tried to stop the bleeding. Botha later recalled how a witness had told him that Reeva was ‘still breathing, making a gurgling sound’ and how a doctor had arrived on the scene and declared, ‘There’s head wounds – it’s not going to help.’

Botha also later recalled, in an interview with Vanity Fair, his impressions of the superstar’s home. ‘It was a big house and very neat and tidy and you could see the money talking, with all the ornaments and portraits and paintings. There were shelves stacked with trophies. There was also one of those big box frames, with a picture of Mike Tyson, along with a signed boxing glove.’

Botha and Van Rensburg navigated their way around Reeva’s body and made their way up the staircase, following the blood trail through the lounge, down the passage, into the bedroom and through to the primary crime scene in the bath­ room. As they passed the open box of watches in the bedroom, Van Rensburg made a mental note: there was blood on the box and he knew that they were valuable and could be appealing to a cop with itchy fingers and a lack of morals.

Inside the bathroom they found the firearm, still cocked and with the safety latch in the ‘fire’ position, evidenced by the clearly identifiable red dot. They saw Reeva’s metallic iPhone and initially thought it may be two phones, but it was just that the cover had slipped off the device. They checked the window in the bathroom and saw that it was open but there was no evidence of tampering and nothing to show that there might have been forced entry by a potential intruder. Van Rensburg also looked out the window to see if there was any way a suspect could climb up and gain entry, but there was none – although there was a ladder lying on the grass below, which had been left by workers responsible for carrying out renovations on the house.

The experienced policemen absorbed it all, allowing the information to percolate, and began to piece together the evidence. What had transpired behind that battered meranti door in the athlete’s luxury home in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day? What story did the scene tell? The forensics, the ballistics, the blood spatters, the bullet casings, the cricket bat, the cellphones and what the neighbours heard – all contributed to formulating a version of events. But already the policemen’s instincts had kicked in. After all, this was not their first murder scene. They already had a picture of how this had played out.

Van Rensburg walked back downstairs and straight into the kitchen. He had questions for Oscar. He wanted to know whether he and Reeva were alone in the house at the time of the shooting. They were, confirmed the athlete. The colonel told him that in light of what he had seen upstairs, he viewed him as a suspect at that stage and warned him of his rights, although he stopped short of arresting him. The officer felt there were still more leads he had to follow up first.

As news of the shooting spread and several more calls rang out across the city, activity at the scene of the crime began to escalate. More police officers arrived, including photographer Warrant Officer Bennie van Staden. Oscar’s brother Carl also appeared, and it wasn’t long before his lawyer, Kenny Oldwadge, walked in. Meanwhile, as the investigation gathered momentum, Oscar was moved from the kitchen to the garage of his home.

Van Rensburg and Botha walked the official photographer through the crime scene. The two men turned Reeva’s body over so that Warrant Office Van Staden could take pictures. They gathered more and more evidence, enough for them to come to the conclusion that they had a prima facie case against Oscar.

‘There is no way anything else could have happened,’ Botha later told Vanity Fair. ‘It was just them in the house and, according to the security registers, she had been staying there for two to three days, so he had to be used to her by that time … There was no forced entry. The only place there could have been entrance was the open bathroom window, and we did everything we could to see if anyone went through it, and it was impossible. So I thought it was an open- and-closed case. He shot her – that’s it. I was convinced that it was murder, and I told my colonel, “You already read him his rights, so you have to arrest him.”’

Oscar was sitting bare-chested  on a gym bench in the garage. His shorts were bloody down the right side, exposing his battered and spattered pros­ thetic legs. His head was in his hands and he was crying. Botha noticed that his hands and chest had been washed clean. Despite attempts by a low-ranking constable to intervene, Van Rensburg had allowed Oscar to rid his body of crucial evidence.

‘Do you remember me?’ Botha asked Oscar, referring to the assault case he had investigated four years prior. Oscar confirmed he did.

‘What happened?’ Botha wanted to know.

‘I thought it was a burglar,’ said Oscar.

It can’t be. It’s impossible, Botha remembers thinking. The police were certain that Oscar’s story about an intruder could not be true. In the presence of his lawyer, Lieutenant-Colonel Schoombie van Rensburg read Oscar Pistorius his rights and formally arrested him for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

• • •

The phone on the bedside table vibrated and woke Justin Divaris from a deep slumber. It was 3:59am on Valentine’s Day.

Justin  rolled  over,  looked  at  the  screen  and  mumbled  to  his  girlfriend Samantha Greyvenstein,  ‘Oscar’s phoning me.’ He ignored the call, but when it rang for a second time Samantha urged him to answer it. ‘Answer the phone, maybe it’s something serious,’ she said.

‘Hi, Oz,’ Samantha heard Justin say, followed by, ‘Don’t speak shit!’ Oscar had told his friend that he had shot Reeva.

‘What are you talking about? I don’t understand you,’ Justin repeated.

‘There has been a terrible accident – I shot Reeva.’

It was at that point that Carice had taken the phone from Oscar and continued the conversation with Justin. She told him it was true and that he should get to the house.

‘Is she okay? Did the gun go off by accident?’ Justin wanted to know.

‘No. She’s not okay. You need to get here.’

Samantha heard him say, ‘I’m coming now, I’m coming now,’ and he shot out of bed, turned on the lights and changed into a tracksuit.

‘Is everything okay?’ she asked Justin, who had turned a ghostly white.

‘No,’ he said. ‘Oscar’s shot Reeva.’


‘Get ready, we need to go.’

Samantha had heard a woman’s voice on the other end of the phone and had assumed it was Reeva’s. She thought the incident couldn’t have been that serious and didn’t think to question Justin further about the gravity of the situation. She thought it must have been an accidental discharge and that her friend had been wounded in the leg or somewhere like that and her life wouldn’t be in any danger. Samantha had assumed that Oscar was just ‘freaking out’ unnecessarily. She wasn’t overly panicked when she climbed into Justin’s car.

But Justin was driving at speed in a McLaren and was still horribly pale. He hadn’t said a word since taking the call.

‘Is everything okay? What’s wrong?’ Samantha asked.

‘I just hope she’s okay,’ Justin responded.

‘What do you mean, you hope she’s okay? She was on the phone to you now,’ Samantha quizzed him, her voice increasingly anxious.

‘No, Sam, that was the neighbour. Apparently it’s not very good.’ It was then that Samantha started to panic.

‘Oh my God, just get there. We just need to get there now!’

The 60-kilometre  trip took Justin and Samantha just over a quarter of an hour, not entirely unlikely for a man who sells luxury sports cars. The couple barely said another word to one another for the rest of the journey as they lost themselves in their respective worries.

Samantha kept telling herself everything was going to be fine. ‘As soon as the ambulance gets there, she will go to hospital and as soon as you get to hospital everything is fine, you know,’ she convinced herself.

When they arrived at the gate to the estate security was reluctant to allow them in. ‘No, it’s fine, phone the house and they’ll let us in,’ Justin tried to explain to the security guard.

‘I was hanging out the window saying, “Is the ambulance here yet? Have they come yet?”’ recalls Samantha. ‘Eventually the guy said to me, “The ambulance has come and left but they didn’t take her with.” I thought, ah well that must mean she’s fine … They’ve patched her up and your mind tells you the best-case scenario all the time.’

It was still pitch dark when Justin and Samantha pulled up outside Oscar’s house at 4:20am. The guards were trying to keep vehicles away but Samantha was already ‘borrelling’ (tumbling) out the car before Justin had even brought it to a stop.

‘I just wanted to get inside and go and see her but the neighbours came to Justin and said, “I don’t think she should go in,” and I said, “No! I’m going in!” The neighbour actually tried to hug me and I said to him, “Who are you? That’s my best friend, I’m going in there!” Then Justin said, “Is she dead?” and they went, “Ja.” And then I broke down and said, “Fuck all of you, I’m going inside.”’ But the police kept her away from the scene anyway.

• • •

By the time Justin and Samantha were on the scene, a handful of police officers had also arrived. So too had Oscar’s brother Carl. Justin and Samantha were barred from entering the house but they could see Reeva’s covered body lying at the bottom of the stairs. The athlete was seated in the garage on a bench-press bench, dressed in a pair of bloody shorts.

‘The minute we walked in and the minute he saw us, he just broke down, completely, uncontrollably. He was incomprehensible. You know when someone can’t speak, they’re dry retching on the floor,’ recalls Samantha. ‘I was just in so much shock. I just sat there. I was bawling my eyes out and then I’d stop and I’d just sit there. Her body was lying right there. She was covered by a blanket, but you could still see her hair and her hand. It was just completely surreal.’

Justin was allowed into the garage and sat down next to Oscar for a few minutes. The athlete was completely incoherent and repeated, ‘My baba, I’ve killed my baba. God take me away.’

‘Justin asked him what had happened. He kept saying, “I thought she was an intruder, I thought she was an intruder.” And then he was saying, “God please take me now, I don’t want to live,”’ says Samantha. ‘Eventually you can’t actu­ ally speak to someone like that because you can’t even understand what they’re saying. Justin said, “Okay, just breathe,” trying to console him. We didn’t know what had happened.’

At that stage, Samantha and Justin could only think that there had been a terrible accident and questioned how on earth this could have happened.

‘I was just thinking, “Oh my goodness, what a terrible accident!” One minute I’m crying  for Reeva,  one minute  I’m trying  to understand  the whole thing, one minute I look fine and then the next minute I’m breaking down again. I think it’s just too much shock, your brain can’t actually deal with it in one day.’

Samantha ultimately chose not to go and look at her best friend’s body although she had to fight the urge to do so. ‘All I wanted to do was go up and pull the blanket off and give her a hug and say, “Get up, we’re going.” There was blood everywhere in the house. I think it was just a lot to take in. Justin and I were just in a dwaal [dazed, in a state of confusion] the rest of the day.’

Samantha  sought  refuge  outside  and  sat  down  on  the  pavement,  leaning against Oscar’s white BMW. She sat there for what felt like half an hour, staring at the bricks, tuned out from the reality unfolding around her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash and then another.

‘I kept noticing a flash that caught my eye and that’s when I looked up and that’s when I saw … They were obviously taking photos.’

She also identified a problem that would become significant in court days later: ‘I remember sitting there and I suppose I’ve watched enough CSI to know. It’s a crime scene and I remember looking at all the other assistants, like the ladies, they were all wearing foot covers and gloves and I remember looking at Hilton Botha. He was wearing gloves but no foot covers and I thought, That’s weird. I mean, of everything that’s going on, that’s what I think right there, Jeez, you’re not wearing foot covers.’

It was Captain Hilton Botha who brought Reeva Steenkamp’s iPhone out to Samantha in the hope that she might have the PIN code to help him unlock the handset. Botha wanted to get hold of the victim’s next of kin. Earlier Samantha had said to officers on the scene that somebody had to contact Reeva’s parents.

‘I said to them, “Her parents need to know, somebody needs to tell them now.” I said, “I’ll phone them.”’

No one had the Steenkamps’ phone number so Samantha called a mutual friend. ‘I need to get Barry Steenkamp’s number,’ she told him.

She was anxious that the news would break in the media before Reeva’s parents had been told.

‘No one should have to find out that their daughter has been killed on the TV,’ says Samantha. Botha brought her Reeva’s phone before she could get the number for the Steenkamps.

Samantha was reluctant to handle the device as it was clearly evidence in the case. ‘He brought me the phone and it was a bag that he took it out of. He said to me, “Does anyone know the code? Can anyone unlock her phone?” and I said, “I can.” There was blood on it and I said to him, “Are you sure I can touch that?” She had a black phone and I noticed there was a little bit of blood on it. And he said, “Ja, ja, ja, it’s fine. Just put in the code.”’

With the phone unlocked, Botha scrolled the contacts list and found the number saved under ‘Mommy’. He punched the digits into his own phone and pressed the dial button, bracing himself for the incomprehensible job of delivering the tragic news to a mother – that her daughter had been killed.

• • •

It took nearly two hours from the time of the shooting for the news to make its way to Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s eastern coastline, where Reeva’s parents June and Barry live. June answered her cellphone just after 5am and Captain Hilton Botha asked her if she had a daughter and what her name was.

‘He said there had been an accident, someone had been shot, my Reeva was dead,’ June later recalled. Botha told her he wanted to tell them personally so that they wouldn’t hear the news on the radio. June immediately phoned her husband who was out at the time. She was so hysterical that Barry thought she was trying to tell him that their dog was dead. From that moment, she says, all the joy went out of their lives.

It  took  several  more  hours  before  the  news  of  Reeva’s  death  reached her Johannesburg family, the Myers, with whom she had been living in Sandringham. Gina Myers, Reeva’s best friend, received a phone call from Samantha Greyvenstein at 7:45am.

‘I could hear she was crying,’ says Gina. ‘She said, “Gi, are you sitting down?” and immediately I stood up and started screaming, “Where’s Reeva? Where is she?” She said, “Gi, sit down, there’s been an accident.” She said to me, “Reeva’s gone,” and I started screaming and crying. I just lost all sense of what was really going on. My dad and my mom and my sister came running into the room. I had no idea. I didn’t even really care. I just heard that Reeva is gone.’

And then, at 8.03 am on Thursday, Valentine’s Day 2013, a tweet from the daily Afrikaans newspaper Beeld broke the news that would rock the world:

@Beeld_Nuus Oscar Pistorius skiet sy vriendin in sy huis dood omdat hy glo dink sy is ’n inbreker.*

* @Beeld_Nuus Oscar Pistorius shoots his girlfriend dead in his house because he believed, thought she was a burglar.

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Mandy Wiener is an award-winning investigative journalist and author who has been reporting on crime in South Africa for the past decade. Her book, Killing Kebble: An Underworld Exposed was a South African publishing phenomenon, with nearly 80,000 copies sold to date.

Barry Bateman has been reporting in Pretoria, Pistorius's hometown, for the past decade. He was among the first journalists on the scene of the shooting and has been covering every development since.

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