|Reeva and friends, retweeted on twitter by Francois Hougaard|
There is a thin but comforting line between sport and news. This week, for obvious reasons, the vibrant world of goals, trophies and fans was rudely interrupted by the sound of gunfire.
Oscar Pistorius, the first amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics in London this year, is one of South Africa’s few globally recognised sporting stars. The news that he had shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp simply shook the world we live in, turned sport upside-down.
Yes, Popes resign, meteorites flash across Russian skies, trains crash… and sport carries glibly on, reporting on Robin van Persie versus Cristiano Ronaldo, South Africa v Pakistan… even Bafana Bafana v Mali despite the war raging around Timbuktu.
But Oscar impinges. He is a genuine sporting hero. Loved by all for his tenacity in the face of being born with no shin bones, his ability to lead an superstar sporting life while most others would retire to a wheelchair and self-pity.
How do we cope when a star of that magnitude appears to be crashing and burning?
The initial tale – picked up wholeheartedly by the Oscar-sympathetic newspapers – suggested he had mistaken the beautiful Reeva for an intruder in his high-security estate. Tragic but accidental.
But once details from unnamed police sources emerged, that theory appeared to fall apart. By Sunday morning, we had suggestions of blood in the bedroom, a shot fired, a cricket bat used… and a frightened woman hiding in the bathroom. Then four bullets through the door.
Two of those bullets hit Reeva in the head. She did not die instantly. Lurid eye-witness reports suggest Oscar tried to resuscitate his girlfriend – though why he called a mutual friend rather than the emergency services to report the incident remain unexplained.
All we can say with any confidence before Oscar’s return to court on Tuesday is that he pulled the trigger, he - and he alone - killed the woman he called “baba”.
With former Sun editor Stuart Higgins arriving to provide “positive spin” to his heavyweight legal team, we read of Oscar’s father Henke telling the UK Sunday Telegraph: “Crime is endemic in South Africa. When you see somebody in your house, you shoot.”
He went on to explain how “Oscar grew up hunting, my sons grew up with guns” and he said Oscar's action were "instinctive - and sportsmen react to instinct" but that hardly explains the need for small arms in a secure estate – or why Oscar had SEVEN more gun licences pending.
It doesn’t explain recent incidents involving the police where Oscar had lost his cool with so-called “love rivals” Quinton van den Bergh and Francois Hougaard.
As journalists – even sports journalists – we are trained not to pre-judge issues until all the facts come to light. In this case, we must attempt to stick to that creed.
But it’s damned difficult.
I’ve spoken to a lad who went to Constantia Primary with Oscar. He says, disabled or not, Pistorius was a bully. That he was cock of the walk at Pretoria Boy’s High. That he was, predictably for a sporting celebrity, surrounded by sycophantic yes men who let him act as he pleased.
The more recent of the many women in his life suggest he was not the most chivalrous of men. Others talk of his parents' divorce, his mother's death. A bloke who, for all his talent, went the way of so many top sportsmen... down the road of arrogance, shagging and insecurity
And always, in the background, the beautiful Reeva, loved by all. Gone.
Given recent cases – Shrien Dewani and Nico Henning spring to mind, just have a look on Google – it’s hard to believe in justice for the well-off and famous. But we must. On Tuesday, let’s hear what forensics have to say. If today's police leaks were accurate. How Oscar’s legal team explain away the shooting of multiple bullets at an apparently defenceless woman.
And hope that justice is done.
This story will appear as my Neal and Pray column in www.thenewage.co.za on Tuesday.