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Media flock to Steenkamp's memorial service despite police warning

Sapa

The police have warned local and international news teams to leave the crematorium's premises as Reeva Steenkamp's funeral went under way.

Reeva Steenkamp funeral letter. (AFP)

Doves Funeral Services personnel carried the coffin of model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp into the chapel at the Victoria Park Crematorium in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday morning, the same day Oscar Pistorius's bail hearing took place.

The black Mercedes-Benz hearse carrying the body stopped at a side entrance to the chapel and the coffin, which was draped in a white cloth with an arrangement of white flowers on it, was carried in by hand. The family of Steenkamp, who was shot dead on Thursday at her Olympian and Paralympian boyfriend's home, asked the media to respect its privacy.

There was an air of restrained suspense at the tranquil, weather-beaten building, which is surrounded by large trees and terraced lawns.

The police warned local and international news teams to leave the premises and they retreated to outside the boundary wall.

Part of the crematorium, a memorial wall and several gravestones were visible from the entrance, where police had erected a cordon.

Some journalists said they had arrived at 6am to ensure they missed nothing ahead of the model's memorial service, but by 9.30am only police and Doves Funeral Service had arrived.

Mourners
Soon after, the first mourners began to trickle in. Those who arrived on foot were swamped by reporters asking them for comment.

South African celebrities were among the throngs of mourners who arrived at the Victoria Park Crematorium, in Port Elizabeth, for model and Steenkamp's funeral on Tuesday morning.

Springbok rugby player Francois Hougaard was seen entering the premises. Recent media reports claim Hougaard sent Steenkamp an SMS shortly before her fatal shooting, prompting speculation of a possible love-triangle. Hougaard has denied having anything to do with the case.

Radio jock Thato Sikwane, commonly known as DJ Fresh, of 5FM, arrived at the funeral around 10.15am. It was believed that Steenkamp's parents also arrived.

Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor and ANC Women's League provincial secretary Nancy Sihlwayi told reporters: "The city is in grief, a little angel is no more."

Referring to Pistorius, she said he should not receive bail and that he "must die in jail".

'Family to the school'
​An emotional Sihlwayi said women needed to be protected by the justice system and she urged men to stand up against gender-based violence.

Pupils of St Dominic's High School, which Steenkamp attended, also arrived at the chapel.

One said Steenkamp was "family to the school".

She said she remembered that Steenkamp had "tried to be part of us, made time for us and she even made time to learn to my language" [Xhosa].

It was believed that the service started at 11am.

The weather was cool and slightly cloudy with a light wind blowing through the trees.

The Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday that Steenkamp's family had been besieged by the media.

Unlike murder-accused Pistorius's family, it is unaccustomed to being in the media spotlight.

Steenkamp's cousin, Sharon Steenkamp, said there would be a "media blackout" at the memorial service. But a press conference would be held afterwards, she said.

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