Thursdays on ESPN (DStv 218) at 20:00
Thursdays on ESPN (DStv 218) at 20:00

Recap: The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius Episode 1

ESPN takes a fact-based approached in the re-telling of Oscar Pistorius’s story, from Paralympic gold to stone-cold jail, in this new documentary series.

In 2020, the world is in the grips of the COVID-19 global pandemic. But back in 2013, the world was gripped by another international obsession – the trial of athlete Oscar Pistorius, who had shot and killed his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of 14 February, Valentine’s Day. ESPN’s (DStv 218) four-part sport documentary, The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius starts its story on that day.

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In the know

Each episode of this documentary series is feature-film length, about 90 minutes. The sheer volume of people interviewed, from credible journalists, to members of both the Pistorius and Steenkamp families, speaks to the efforts of producer John Battsek (Searching For Sugarman) and director Daniel Gordon (Hillsborough) to create a balanced story.

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The first and last person viewers see in episode 1 is Oscar’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius. He re-tells his experience of this horrific event, from picking up the phone and first hearing about the shooting at Oscar’s house in Silver Woods Country Estate in Pretoria.

Throughout the episode, nothing is sugar coated. The key facts and information about how events occurred between 14 February, until 22 February when Oscar was granted bail, are documented and told in detail, by a number of key figures who experienced it first-hand.

Arnold Prinsloo

Coverage carnage

When news of the incident broke on the morning of 14 February 2013, there was an immediate media frenzy. As journalists note in the episode, Oscar’s name was already known around the world following his participation at the 2012 Olympic Games during which he, a double amputee, competed against full-bodied athletes.

The episode offers first-hand accounts of the intense pressure that journalists were under while covering this story. “The enormity of it, the international media got on the story very quickly,” says South African journalist Marida Fitzpatrick. "So, when we as journalists were used to competing with local journalists, we suddenly had this international story and all these TV crews from companies overseas were competing with us. Chaos erupted!”

Marida Fitzpatrick

Remarkable Reeva

Reeva’s family and friends also share their accounts of the kind of person she was. In the episode, those close to Reeva explain that she had a zest for life and was determined to make a difference.

“Reeva always made you feel like the most important person in the room,” her cousin Kim Martin says. “She was like that from a very young age.”

Days before her death, Reeva published a series of social media posts paying respect to 17-year-old Anene Booysen, who was tragically raped and murdered earlier in February 2013. In the episode, Reeva’s contribution to the fight against gender-based violence is also explored.

Reeva Steenkamp

A glimpse into the background

Besides the day-to-day documentation of events, from Reeva being shot and killed, until Oscar made bail, the first episode also details scenes from Oscar’s childhood, highlighting the significant role that his mother, Sheila, played in his life until her death in 2002.

Continuing this personal note, Oscar’s high school friend, Craig Muller, explains that he’s known two different sides of Oscar: “The kind and sensitive Oscar, and the other side of a very hard, cocky, potentially arrogant guy who almost came across as untouchable.”

Craig Muller

Watch The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius, Thursdays on ESPN (DStv 218) at 20:00, or catch the rebroadcast Sundays at 20:00.

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