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Pistorius girlfriend Steenkamp laid to rest

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Tearful family and friends said goodbye to slain model Reeva Steenkamp in a private funeral ceremony in South Africa on Tuesday as her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius appeared in court charged with her murder.

Steenkamp's coffin, draped in a cloth with a white flower arrangement on top, was carried into the chapel at the crematorium in her hometown of Port Elizabeth at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) by six people.

Sombre-faced mourners exchanged hugs and wiped away tears after the intimate memorial service in the southeastern coastal city where Steenkamp grew up.

"There's a space missing inside all of the people that she knew that can't be filled again," her brother Adam, who gave the eulogy, told reporters after the ceremony. "We'll miss her."

The late law graduate and cover girl was shot dead at her boyfriend's luxury home on Valentine's Day, in a case that has rocked the nation where Pistorius, a double amputee Olympian and Paralympian, is a national hero.

While Steenkamp was being laid to rest, a sobbing Pistorius appeared in a Pretoria court seeking to be released on bail, sparking a fresh media frenzy.

But in Port Elizabeth, the focus was firmly on Steenkamp.

A funeral programme simply entitled "Reeva", with the dates of her birth and death on it, showed a black-and-white portrait of the 29-year-old.

The words "God's Gift, A Child" were written on the back.

When her family addressed the media, they made no mention of Pistorius, whom Steenkamp had been dating since late last year.

Steenkamp's brother said the mood at the ceremony was sad, but also an opportunity to remember the good times they had shared.

"At certain points we were smiling whilst remembering Reeva because we only have good memories of her and I think that's what we were all thinking," he said.

Her uncle Michael Steenkamp, who broke down while speaking about his niece, recalled how she wanted to be an activist who spoke up for women's rights and advocated against violence.

He said he hoped her death might make a difference.

"By her passing away, it actually can make a change in the lives of many people," he said.

"She was an angel," added Gavin Venter, an ex-jockey who worked with her race horse trainer father.

Venter said there had been no indication that the glamorous young woman was having relationship problems.

"I asked her father, her father said no, she was very happy with Oscar, there was no problems, but maybe she was just hiding it away," he told journalists.

Venter said he thought the star athlete should be denied bail.

"I'm disgusted and he must be dealt with harshly," he told reporters. "He's a danger to the public. He'll be a danger to witnesses, he must stay in jail, they mustn't release him."

Pistorius himself broke down in court as the prosecution accused him of premeditated murder.

One of Steenkamp's former classmates at a local private Catholic school, Bongiwe Gaxambaa, said she would remember her school friend's smile, the way she got along with people, and her love and warmth for others.

Steenkamp's murder was hard to come to terms with, she added.

"It's kind of only sinking in now that I'm actually here, that she's really gone."

Also among the mourners were nuns from her old school, a well-known DJ who hosted a reality show that Steenkamp appeared on and the Springbok rugby player Francois Hougaard.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/pistorius-girlfriend-steenkamp-laid-rest-0