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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 a crematorium chapel in her hometown of Port Elizabeth by six people.

Sombre-faced mourners exchanged hugs and wiped away tears after the intimate 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're going to keep all the positive things that we remember and know about my sister and we will try and continue with the things that she tried to make better. We'll miss her."

The late law graduate and cover girl was shot dead at her boyfriend's luxury home on Valentine's Day.

The case has sent shockwaves through South Africa where Pistorius, a double amputee Olympian and Paralympian, is a national hero.

While Steenkamp was being laid to rest, a sobbing Pistorius appeared at a media-mobbed bail hearing in a Pretoria court some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, where he said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and did not intend to kill her.

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

Mourners carried a funeral programme that showed a black-and-white portrait of the 29-year-old along with her name and the dates of her birth and death.

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

When her family addressed the media after the ceremony, 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 had wanted to be an activist and advocate against violence against women.

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.

While Steenkamp's family have said they feel no hatred or animosity towards Pistorius, Venter said 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."

After being accused of shooting Steenkamp repeatedly through a locked bathroom door in what prosecutors said was a premeditated murder, Pistorius's bail hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.

One of Steenkamp's former classmates at a local private Catholic school, Bongiwe Gaxamba, 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 death 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-1