The trial of Oscar Pistorius has been of huge public interest in South Africa and the world, and his first TV interview since the murder of Reeva Steenkamp on the night of 14 February 2013 was unsurprisingly eagerly anticipated.
Thousands of South Africans stayed up to watch the broadcast on M-Net (DStv, channel 101) to listen to Pistorius tell his side of the story without the dogged cross-examination from state prosecutor Gerrie Nel.
The interview showed a seemingly distressed Pistorius breaking down regularly as he recounted events from the night with perfect clarity. He also describes a measure of self-loathing and disbelief at what happened.
“I did take Reeva’s life,” he said. “I must live with that. I can still smell the blood. I can still feel the warmness of it on my hands and to know that’s your fault, that’s what you’ve done. And I can understand the pain of the people that loved her and miss her – I feel the same pain. I feel that same hate for myself.
I would like to believe that if Reeva could look down upon me, that she would want me to live that life.
“I look back and I think, ‘How did this possibly happen? How could this have happened? How could this have happened?’”
Pistorius describes a cosy evening during which the couple ate a romantic dinner that Steenkamp had prepared, complete with candles, before settling in for the night and watching TV until they fell asleep.
He recalls minute details, like Steenkamp teasing him to brush his teeth and the exchange they had when he’d woken up to close the sliding doors. He also recalls the words he shouted into the bathroom before getting his gun and firing off the four shots that killed Steenkamp who was locked in the bathroom cubicle.
His composed delivery stood out for psychologist Leonard Katz. “It felt like he was narrating a movie,” said Katz, who was part of a special post-viewing panel on Carte Blanche. “He’s told the story so many times to his lawyers, to the court, there is a certain amount of coaching. Yet considering that he was pretty traumatised at the beginning, there must have been a certain amount of trauma, and the memory would have been very patchy afterwards. But he tells such a smooth story and I think a lot of it has been rehearsed.”
Based on comments on social media as the interview aired, many believed that Pistorius showed little respect for the pain of Steenkamp’s family as he seemed to prioritise what he’s lost before considering what the Steenkamps have lost.
“I don’t know if she felt pain. I don’t know what she felt, but whatever I did was terrible,” Pistorius said. “I see the hurt this has caused my family, caused mutual friends that we used to have – some don’t speak to me anymore and some of them think I’m ungrateful that I still have my life, but I see the pain that it’s caused Reeva’s family.”
In the interview, Pistorius addresses some of the issues that have bothered the public, like why Steenkamp had locked herself in the bathroom and how he could have been unaware that she wasn’t in bed.
“She must have gone to the bathroom to relieve herself and when I started shouting, she must have thought someone was coming down the passage off the balcony, so she got scared and closed the bathroom door. And here I am thinking that is the confirmation of there being someone in the bathroom, and she just hears me shouting and coming closer and closer to the bathroom.”