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Pan Macmillan

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Excerpt from Behind the Door: Reeva Steenkamp’s Close Friend Samantha Greyvenstein Describes the Crime Scene

Behind the DoorPan Macmillan shared an excerpt from Behind the Door: The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story by Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman.

In Behind the Door Wiener and Bateman unpack the facts of what happened the night Oscar Pistorius shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013. In October 2014, Pistorius was sentence to five years in prison for culpable homicide, with a concurrent three-year suspended prison sentence for reckless endangerment. The case will now go to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

In the following extract the authors reconstruct the events of that fateful night, from the perspective of Steenkamp’s close friend Samantha Greyvenstein and her boyfriend Justin Divaris, a close friend of Pistorius’. Greyvenstein recalls how she noticed that Hilton Botha, the initial lead investigator in the case, was not wearing foot covers at the crime scene, and how she was handed Steenkamp’s phone, which still had blood on it, to contact the next of kin.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * * * *

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

‘What?’

‘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 4:20 AM. 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 actually 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.

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