CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Barry Steenkamp, the father of Reeva Steenkamp, the woman who was fatally shot by Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, has died, a family spokesperson said Friday. He was 80.
Family lawyer and spokesperson Tania Koen confirmed Barry Steenkamp’s death.
A foundation set up by the Steenkamp family in memory of Reeva said Barry Steenkamp died in his sleep on Thursday evening.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden and peaceful passing of Barry Steenkamp,” the foundation said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Barry was a blessing to many, and he will be remembered with love and great fondness.”
“We find solace in the knowledge that he is now with his beloved Reeva.”
Barry Steenkamp cut a grieving and sometimes angry figure during Pistorius’ murder trial for the killing of 29-year-old Reeva, who was a model and law graduate. Pistorius was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison after a series of appeals for shooting his girlfriend multiple times through a closed toilet cubicle door in his home in the predawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.
Pistorius, 36, is still in jail but the double-amputee former runner and multiple Paralympic champion is seeking release on parole. He attended a parole hearing in March, when South African authorities said he will only be eligible for early release next August. He has challenged that and claims he has served the required amount of time in jail to be eligible now.
Barry Steenkamp met face-to-face with Pistorius last year as part of a program in South Africa that gives victims of crime or their families a chance to confront offenders who have applied for parole. At that meeting, Steenkamp said he urged Pistorius to confess that he had intentionally shot Reeva in rage after an argument.
Pistorius says he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for a dangerous nighttime intruder hiding in his bathroom and shot her multiple times through the toilet door in self-defense. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide — which is comparable to manslaughter — in 2014 and sentenced to five years in prison. That was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction and his sentence was increased after appeals by prosecutors.
Reeva Steenkamp’s parents said they initially forgave Pistorius but later changed their minds. They said in February on the 10th anniversary of their daughter’s killing that they still believed Pistorius intentionally shot her and wanted him to stay in jail for the rest of his life. The Steenkamps opposed Pistorius’ release on parole.
“I told Oscar directly that he had shot my daughter deliberately and he denied it,” Barry Steenkamp said in an interview with British newspaper The Daily Mail of the meeting with Pistorius in 2022. “He stuck to his story that he thought it was an intruder.”
“After all these years we are still waiting for him to admit he did it in anger. That is all we wanted. If he told me the truth, he would have been a free man by now and I would have let the law take its course over his parole.”
“But I was wasting my time. He is a murderer. He should remain in jail.”
Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, attended the parole hearing for Pistorius in March, when authorities ruled that he would only be eligible to be released in August next year. Barry Steenkamp wasn’t able to attend because of poor health, family spokesperson Koen said at the time.