Saturday April 27, 2013
Documentary looks into controversies surrounding Oscar Pistorius' case
By LOUISA LIM
Did Oscar Pistorius kill his girlfriend in a crime of passion? Or was it a freak accident? A new documentary takes a deeper look into this compelling case.
IT was a story straight out of a summer blockbuster: Oscar Pistorius’ stellar rise to fame after overcoming a personal adversity came crushing down when he was arrested for killing his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
He allegedly fired four shots through a locked bathroom door, three of which hit and killed Steenkamp. According to Pistorius, he thought an intruder had entered his home which was why he fired the shots. Prosecutors think there’s more to the story.
For now, the script remains unresolved and millions of people are waiting with bated breath for the next chapter. The question that needed answer: was it cold-blooded, premeditated murder or a terrible heartbreaking accident?
In an attempt to shed some light on the incident, a documentary entitled Oscar Pistorius: What Really Happened? will be screened for the first time in Asia, on Life Inspired tomorrow at 9.30pm. Presented by British television personality Rick Edwards, who has met Oscar Pistorius several times, this 90-minute show features fresh information, unseen footage and new interviews with some of the friends and family of Pistorius and Steenkamp, as well as those close to the case.
But first, a little bit about Pistorius. In his article Pistorius And South Africa’s Culture Of Violence for Time Magazine, Alex Perry wrote, “Cool, handsome and impeccably dressed in appearances on magazine covers and billboards the world over, he forever altered perceptions of the disabled and even altered the word’s meaning – an ambition Pistorius encapsulated in his mantra: ‘You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are abled by the abilities you have.’”
Pistorius was born without a fibula in either leg, and both were amputated before his first birthday. Using prosthetics, he went on to play able-bodied sports at Pretoria Boys High School, one of South Africa’s most prestigious private schools. A knee injury, however, forced him to switch to carbon-fibre blades attached to his knees. He began running for recovery, clocking in astonishing times while at it.
In the documentary, veteran journalist and broadcaster Graham Joffe described Pistorius as a remarkable teenager who didn’t let his disability get the best of him: “I met him for the first time probably 10 years ago, it was soon after his mother passed away. (Here is) this incredible humble kid who had the world at his feet, amazing kid, just full of drive, the positiveness. I was just, in awe of him.”
But Joffe, who has covered the athlete’s impressive career trajectory over the years, claimed the “real” Pistorius gradually changed – for the worse.
“Sadly, I think as more fame, success and money came into his life, I saw a very different Oscar,” he said.
Joffe added: “There were signs. In the last five years, there were incidents that have happened, things that felt like the bubble was about to burst.”
If the interviews were anything to go by, it’s that Pistorius had his own inner demons to deal with.
Marc Batchelor, a South African footballer, also revealed in the documentary that Pistorius threatened to break his legs in an argument over one of Pistorius’ ex-girlfriends. Pistorius, who Batchelor described as drunk, started yelling and swearing over the phone.
“He has a dark side. He gets ragey, he gets incensed. He gets violent ... I think when he was in front of everybody, he was the golden boy. He said the right thing to the right people. He won hearts like that. I think maybe he thought he was untouchable.”
And untouchable he was, at least as an athlete. In 2012, the Blade Runner – as he is now known – became the first double-amputee to participate, and emerge victorious, in the 2012 Paralympics. He began dating Steenkamp shortly after, in November that year.
The striking, platinum-haired law school graduate was an up-an-coming star in South Africa, appearing on the cover of FHM and was the face of Avon Cosmetics. She was also gearing up for her debut on television in the reality show Tropika Island Of Treasure.
“Reeva, she was bit feisty,” said Batchelor. “If he gave her a mouthful, she’d have given it back. He’s a control freak. With his girls, he had to control things.”
But there were a few things that were beyond Pistorius’ control, including Steenkamp’s friendly relationship with her ex-boyfriend, South African rugby star Francois Hougaard. It is believed that on the night she was murdered, Steenkamp had received a text message from Hougaard. It is alleged that Pistorius found out about the message.
But their love life was not a bed of roses. Police claimed they had attended to complaints of domestic violence at Pistorius’ apartment on several occasions before Steenkamp’s untimely death.
Pepi Dimevski, who did two of Steenkamp’s tattoos, was captured in the documentary as saying he was worried about her relationship with Pistorius: “I thought, ‘What’s she doing with Oscar?’”
The last time he saw the couple together was at a friend’s engagement party. “I think he was the only person drunk in there,” said Dimevski.
There is the view that for Pistorius, life after the London Olympics was never the same because there was nothing left to achieve.
And then the Feb 14 tragedy happened.
According to Pistorius, the couple of three months had opted to stay in for a quiet dinner. About 10pm, they went to the bedroom, where he watched TV with his prosthetic legs off while she did yoga before they turned in. After a quick succession of events – noise, gunshots, mayhem – that saw Steemkamp lying in the bathroom bleeding to death, Pistorius called his best friend Justin Divaris.
Divaris recounted the incident in the documentary: “He said to me there’s been a terrible accident. Reeva’s been shot.”
Divaris, who lives in Johannesburg, said it took him 40 minutes to get to Pretoria, where Pistorius resides.
“By the time I got there, there was a lot of police. The ambulance had already come and gone, it was really a crime scene, I wasn’t allowed in the house, the door was open and I could see her lying at the bottom of the stairs covered in blankets, covered in towels.”
Divaris claimed Pistorius was traumatised by what he had done.
“Oscar had been detained in the garage. They allowed me access to the garage to speak to him. He was totally incoherent, he just kept saying, ‘I’ve killed my baby’. He was sobbing the whole time.”
But at the hearing, prosecutors painted Pistorius as a ruthless murderer. Steenkamp had allegedly cowered terrified behind the locked door of an enclosed toilet after a quarrel. As Pistorius strapped on his prosthetic legs, he grabbed his pistol, strode seven yards to the door and fired four times through it in cold blood.
There is also the claim that banned steroids were found in his home after the incident. If these reports are true, the fall-out is potentially enormous. Will the Blade Runner be able to outrun a controversy this time? Only time will tell.
Tune in to Oscar Pistorius: What Really Happened? on Life Inspired (Astro Ch 728) tomorrow at 9.30pm.