Port Elizabeth – Springbok rugby player Francois Hougaard arrived in Port Elizabeth on Monday night ahead of Reeva Steenkamp’s memorial service on Tuesday.
On Monday, it was widely reported that Hougaard had sent Steenkamp a late-night SMS shortly before her murder and this may have angered her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius, the global Paralympics star who now stands accused of killing her.
Hours before Hougaard’s arrival here on Monday night, messages about him circulated on Twitter as a result of the reports that he may have somehow been connected to what had happened to her.
Hougaard was repeatedly referred to on Twitter as “the man suddenly at the centre of the Oscar Pistorius case”.
One user tweeted: “Seems like there may be something to the Francois Hougaard connection to #Pistorius case…”
Another tweeted: “Springbok scrumhalf Francois #Hougaard now caught up in the #Pistorius murder trial. Apparently he and Steenkamp had a ‘close relationship’.”
A third tweeted: “Wonder if Francois Hougaard will play on Friday considering all the speculations…”
On Monday night at the airport, Hougaard could be seen walking with a woman and a man towards the luggage carousel. While he was waiting for a few bags, a screen fleetingly showed an image of Pistorius.
It was not clear if Hougaard, standing in front of a similar screen and looking up, saw the image.
When Hougaard walked into the arrivals section of the airport, he appeared tired. Asked for comment, he said: “No. I’m not allowed to talk to you.”
However, Hougaard, also a Blue Bulls player, did confirm he was playing against the Stormers on Friday.
It is understood Hougaard attended a rugby practice session in Pretoria earlier on Monday before flying to Port Elizabeth.
At the funeral service, family and friends of Steenkamp will bid her farewell, taking comfort in Psalm 23, the Lord is my Shepherd.
Voice shaking, Michael Steenkamp, Reeva’s uncle and family spokesman, said: “The family feels this (scripture) is appropriate to Reeva’s life.”
He said the family would like Reeva, 29, to be remembered for two of her best qualities – her love for her family and her activism against abuse of women.
“She was a complete family girl and no matter what she was doing, her family was a priority and they always came first,” Steenkamp said.
Reeva’s family feels strongly about portraying her as an activist against the abuse of women.
“It is a sad coincidence that she was a victim of the very act she fought against,” her uncle said.
One of Reeva’s recent tweets shows an image of a woman being hit. The caption read: “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA. RIP Anene Booysen. #rape #crime #sayNO.”
The private memorial service and cremation will be held for Reeva at 11am on Tuesday at the Victoria Park Crematorium in Port Elizabeth.
Steenkamp said the family had chosen red and white roses for the crematorium’s chapel and the order of service would feature a photograph of Reeva taken in her twenties.
Among the family members attending are Reeva’s parents, her stepbrother Adam, her uncle Michael, her aunt and cousins.
Steenkamp said Reeva’s cousins and family in Cape Town met Pistorius once when he and Reeva flew down to meet them.
The service is closed to the media.
“We want to be given a chance (to mourn). We do not want to be distracted by anything, including the media,” Steenkamp said.
Reeva’s parents would decide where to scatter her ashes when the time was right, he added.
It was mere coincidence that Pistorius’s bail application would be heard on the same day as the memorial service.
“We had the service planned before the case was scheduled.”
The family is confident all will be revealed during the court case and had not been following the media’s speculation on her death.
“We do not watch television and the radio is off. We prefer not to be sidetracked,” Steenkamp said.
The police, he said, did not keep in touch with the family about the investigation.
“You ask yourself, do you really want to know right now?” he said.
He said for now they were focusing on their memories of Reeva