Pretoria – As Reeva Steenkamp slumped to the ground in a pool of blood, a Valentine’s Day card lay unopened on the table.
“Roses are red, violets are blue.
“Today is a good day to tell you that… I love you,” it read.
Reeva had signed it with a smiley face and three kisses just hours earlier.
In carrying her body down the stairs from his bathroom, Oscar Pistorius may very well have caught sight of the envelope.
With her ever-affectionate touch, it was addressed to “Ozzy” with some hearts and a cute squiggle alongside.
But she would never get to see him open it.
Instead, she had been fatally wounded by three bullets fired from her boyfriend’s gun on what should be the most romantic day of the year.
It was a tragic end of Shakespearean magnitude for the law graduate with a promising modelling and TV career ahead of her.
In the weeks and months before her death, she had gushed online about being in love and excitedly chatted to her Twitter followers about the magic of Valentine’s Day.
She told how she was madly in love with her track star boyfriend, who, like her, had triumphed over adversity, and they had apparently planned to move in together.
But that was all taken away from her.
Pistorius insisted he shot her accidentally after mistaking her for a dangerous intruder in his bathroom in the dead of night.
And on Friday a judge ruled that he did not intend to kill her, acquitting him of murder. It served as a reminder just how her life was cut so heartbreakingly short.
Steenkamp was born in Cape Town on August 19, 1983, and moved to Port Elizabeth as a child where she lived with her mother June and father Barry, a racehorse trainer.
Her parents recalled how they nearly lost their daughter twice when she was growing up.
At the age of five, she nearly bled to death after suffering complications when she had her tonsils taken out.
Then at 19 she broke her back in a horrific horse-riding fall on their farm, suffering injuries so severe she was forced to learn to walk again – an experience that may have brought her closer to Pistorius years later.
“Reeva had three tragedies in her life,” her dad told Hello! magazine earlier this year.
“I was there for her the first and second time, but I wasn’t there for the third.”
Her half-sibling, Simone, says she will always remember Reeva as her “adorable baby sister”.
When I was 18 my mother became pregnant with Reeva,” she said in an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday.
“I loved her from the first moment. My mother ran a riding school and would be outside with the ponies and kids while I looked after Reeva.
“The second she cried I would pick her up from her cot and it became a joke in the family – I just wanted to hold her all the time, whether she was crying or not.”
As a toddler, Reeva was Simone’s bridesmaid at her wedding.
“She was perfect, and the photograph of us together is something I cherish now more than ever.”
As Reeva grew up she became close to Simone’s own two boys.
“She was a bossy little girl, always in charge,” Simone says.
“She used to make the boys play at tea-parties and they always grumbled but you had to do what Reeva wanted.
“We adored her – she was bubbly and fun and ordered us all around.”
In her teenage years, her former headmaster at St Dominic’s Priory School in Port Elizabeth, Greg Stokell, described Steenkamp as a keen hockey player and swimmer who had achieved good academic qualifications.
He said: “She was a vibrant, friendly, diligent and motivated student who was popular with and respected by staff and peers alike.
“Reeva had the full support of her parents who encouraged her to maximise her strengths and abilities to achieve her dreams.
“She set high goals for herself in everything she did and she consistently converted opportunities into success.”
Reeva would go on to graduate with a law degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, but made a dynamic career change after being scouted and named the first face of cosmetics giant Avon South Africa.
The 30-year-old had made an application to the Bar three years ago, but then received a call asking her to do an FHM shoot. She made the decision to take a career in modelling.