PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa – The mother of Reeva Steenkamp, the model fatally shot by Oscar Pistorius, says she is still seeking “justice” over the killing even as the Olympian's release from prison was delayed at the last moment.
June Steenkamp spoke of her ongoing “sadness” at losing her daughter just two days before he had been due to switch to house arrest as part of his five-year sentence for manslaughter.
"As the story unwinds I want people to remember that somebody actually died"
Pistorius was expected to be released Friday after serving 10 months in prison. However, South Africa's Department of Justice said Wednesday that the parole board’s earlier decision to free him was made "prematurely" and without legal basis.
In South Africa, prisoners must serve one-sixth of their sentence, or 10 months in this case, to be considered for release. The parole board’s decision was taken after only six months.
The government's intervention came on what would have been Reeva Steenkamp’s 32nd birthday.
"It was a shock,'' Steenkamp told TODAY's Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview early Thursday. "I'm very, very pleased about this. It's an important thing for other people, other women."
"I'm not worried about if it's a short delay,'' she said. "It's been set now, the precedent for him to wait now until the time is right."
Hours before the government's intervention, Steenkamp and her family visited the beach in the Summerstrand suburb of Port Elizabeth, where Reeva's ashes were scattered.
“As the story unwinds I want people to remember that somebody actually died,” she told NBC News on the beach. “That she died, she lost her life. This isn’t just about [Pistorius]. We have to learn to live without her and it’s very difficult. I don’t think it’s ever going to be possible. She was too much … belonging to us, with us, loving us and we loved here — it’s just …it’s a bond that can never be broken.”
She added: “Today we come to wish her happy birthday and just remember and celebrate who she was and how wonderful she was.
“To think that she could have done such wonderful things but her life was taken away. That’s what we’re doing now, celebrating her life even though it was short it was amazing.”
June Steenkamp said she still felt “sadness,” adding: “A bit part of our life has been taken away. It’s very sad.”
Asked about a possible appeal in the case, she said: “It’s not over yet, the appeal is coming and we have to leave it to the justice system now.”
She said she just wanted “justice” in the case. “That’s all I want. Justice.”
Pistorius’ former lawyer, Wergele McKenzie, said the athlete was still young enough to redeem himself in the eyes of society.
“We're torn in two because on the one hand there's a family that suffered great loss and we want to support them and we have empathy with them,” he told ITV News. “But on the other hand we would still like to believe, he's still a young man, there's still hope for him, he can be rehabilitated and he still has something to give to society.”