TODAY marks the second anniversary of the funeral of South African model Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead by her Paralympic athlete boyfriend Oscar Pistorius.

Reeva’s mum June, who was born in Blackburn, has paid tribute to her ‘sensitive’, ‘outgoing’ and ‘highly-driven’ daughter in a book published to tell the world about the law graduate, who used her visibility in the media to fight for causes that supported vulnerable people.


As well as speaking in A Mother’s Story about her relationship with her daughter, Mrs Steenkamp, who also has another daughter Simone, also reveals more about her ‘idyllic’ upbringing in East Lancashire, which she remembers with fondness.

The world was stunned when Pistorius, who was known as the Blade Runner, shot Reeva at their home in Pretoria, claiming he thought his girlfriend was an intruder.

He admitted shooting her, but said he had never meant to kill her.

However, a judge found that the double-amputee, a poster boy for South Africa and Paralympic sport, acted ‘negligently’ on the night he shot and killed Reeva.

The High Court judge acquitted him of pre-meditated murder and second-degree murder, but found him guilty of manslaughter – known in the South African judicial system as culpable homicide.

In the book, Mrs Steenkamp said: “It is a terrible irony that Reeva, who was super-conscious of violence against women in South Africa, should now be famous all over the world as a symbol of domestic abuse. Her death has become a rallying point for campaigns.”

Mrs Steenkamp also describes how Reeva was a model pupil at school and achieved high marks in subjects like accountancy, biology and Xhosa, one of South Africa’s official languages.

She said: “I was so proud of my daughter. How could I have produced her?

“I was never one to focus at school. I spent more time being sent out of the classroom than sitting in it, but Reeva was the opposite.

“Hard work was something we all understood in our family.

“My mother and father met when they were both working in the same factory.

“As a family, we all have a strong work ethic.”

Mrs Steenkamp goes on to talk about her childhood in Blackburn.

She said: “I was an only child because my mother had such a difficult birth with me that she couldn’t get pregnant again.

“My parents never communicated a sense of sadness that they couldn’t have more children. They gave me a wonderful time growing up.

“We lived first in a terraced house on Heys Lane with a pub at the end of the street, and I went to the little local school.

“I remember my early life as idyllic, even though it was spent in an industrial town.

“You know the ‘four thousand holes’ in the Beatles’ song A Day in the Life, the one that starts ‘I read the news today, oh boy’?

“That was said to have been inspired by a newspaper report that caught John Lennon’s eye about Blackburn’s four thousand potholes.”

Mrs Steenkamp said her parents often worked very long hours, so she would often go to her granny’s house ‘up the road’ after school, but that she had a perfect childhood.

She added: “Every holiday we went to London and saw a show, or we travelled to Wales or Scotland.

“As an only child, I was allowed to take a friend. They were thoughtful like that, my parents.

“They doted on me. I didn’t have to cook or do any cleaning or domestic chores, they just created a little cocoon of happiness around me.

“I hunted every Sunday. I did eight years of ballet and riding; Saturday was ballet day, Sunday my day with horses and ponies. I had friends who had horses and I used to ride with them.”

The grieving mother said her mother was a very ‘determined’ woman who had always wanted to become a nurse.

Mrs Steenkamp said: “Her mother wouldn’t let her, so after working all week in the factory she spent every weekend in the infirmary, working for nothing, studying in her spare time. She was eventually able to take her exams and become a nursing sister. Then she was happy.”

Mrs Steenkamp said her mum was keen to move to a bungalow in Langho, which meant she had to leave her ‘lovely secondary modern’ in Blackburn and go to a new school in Great Harwood.

She said: “You had to fight to stand up for yourself there. On my first day, a girl smacked me in the chops, but by the time I left, I was the best fighter in school.”

Mrs Steenkamp said she was also proud of her father’s achievements.

She said: “My father was awarded a medal from the Queen for 36 years’ service in a factory with a royal warrant which had made guns and equipment during the war.

“My parents were working people and they instilled in me the idea that you have to provide.”

When Mrs Steenkamp was 16 when her mother ‘booked’ her to start work at Boots the Chemist the day after she finished school.

She added: “I left school at 16 and got a certificate in hairdressing. I was married at 17 to Tony Cowburn, who was a toolmaker, and Simone was born when I was 18.

“They used to have a Saturday lunchtime Dance at the Mecca and I met my first husband there when I was about 14 or 15.”

The couple emigrated to South Africa in 1965.

Mrs Steenkamp said: “Tony used to visit South Africa for work and stay three months at a time. It was good business and he was doing well.

“He came back to our little house in Blackburn one day and said, ‘why don’t we go and live in Africa?’.

“I thought anything was better than being in the same small industrial town I’d known all my life.

“I had a lovely childhood, but now I thought I wanted to see some of the world.

“His enthusiasm for the thriving business opportunities and the beauty of South Africa was contagious, so we left.”