CENTURION, South Africa (AP) — The mother of Oscar Pistorius' slain girlfriend will attend the double-amputee Olympian's murder trial next month to get "closure," Reeva Steenkamp's family said Tuesday as the anniversary of the shooting death that shocked millions and put a national hero in the dock approaches.
"June and other family members will be at the trial in Pretoria," Steenkamp's parents, Barry and June, said in a statement released through the family lawyers. "All we are looking for is closure and to know that our daughter did not suffer on that tragic Valentine's Day."
No members of Reeva Steenkamp's immediate family have attended any of Pistorius' previous court dates, and the decision makes it likely that Pistorius will come face-to-face in court with the family of the woman he says he loved dearly and shot dead in a tragic accident.
Prosecutors believe Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp after a loud fight heard by neighbors and his blockbuster trial will likely grip the world's attention. South African television channels have applied to air the trial live, offering a constant view of the proceedings where the country's former icon could face 25 years in prison for a violent killing.
Steenkamp was killed by Pistorius in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year. The athlete was charged with murder the same day. Pistorius denies murder and says he shot through a toilet door after mistaking his girlfriend for a dangerous nighttime intruder. Pistorius fired four shots, with three bullets hitting Steenkamp, prosecutors say.
The Steenkamp family statement did not say if father Barry would attend the trial which is to open March 3 at the North Gauteng High Court in the capital, Pretoria.
"As the first anniversary of our beloved daughter's death approaches, we would like to thank all family, friends, the people of South Africa, and the world for their compassion, kind words and comfort shown to us, and for the many letters of condolences we have received," Steenkamp's parents said. "We understand and empathise with other parents and families who have lost a child or loved one through violence or abuse."
The Steenkamp family added that they intended to set up a foundation in honor of the 29-year-old Reeva, a model and reality TV star, after the trial.
"Reeva, who held such a passion for women's abuse issues and frequently spoke out against domestic violence, intended to one day open an establishment where abused women would be cared for," her parents said.
They also repeated their request for privacy ahead of the anniversary of the killing on Friday, and the start of the trial in a few weeks.
"Without offending the media, or any well-meaning persons, we would like to ask that our privacy be respected during this difficult time," they said.
Steenkamp's family has rarely spoken publicly in recent months, with their last prepared media statement in August last year around the date that would have been their daughter's 30th birthday. On that day, Aug. 19, Pistorius was formally indicted on charges of premeditated murder and illegal possession of ammunition and it was announced he would stand trial at a high court. He is also expected to be indicted on two other charges relating to reckless shooting of firearms in public when his trial starts.
The 27-year-old Pistorius, an international track star even before he became the first double-amputee to run at the world championships and the Olympics, faces a possible life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison before the chance of parole if he is convicted of premeditated murder in Steenkamp's killing. While prosecutors maintain he intended to kill his girlfriend, the athlete says he fired in self-defense, fearing for his and Steenkamp's safety.
A female judge will preside over Pistorius' case and ultimately pronounce the superstar guilty or innocent. There is no trial by jury in South Africa.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP