Thursday, March 07, 2013

Family Of Reeva Steenkamp Find A Big-Bucks PR Campaign Seeking To Drown Them Out

Posted by The Machine

On Valentine’s Day, Reeva Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, was shot three times by boyfriend Oscar Pistorius while she was in the en-suite toilet. She died shortly after the emergency services arrived at the scene.

There are a number of parallels between the Reeva Steenkamp case and the Meredith Kercher case.

Both cases have generated an intense media frenzy. The following headline was published on The Guardian website: “South Africa prepares for its own OJ-style trial of the century”

Similarly, Barbie Nadeau writing in the Daily Beast referred the trial of Knox and Sollecito as the “media trial of the century”.

Both Oscar Pistorius and Amanda Knox have received widespread support from around the world.

Peet van Zyl, Oscar Pistorius’ agent quoted in the Guardian said that “international fans from literally all over the world” have sent their good wishes to Pistorius.

Amanda Knox also had widespread from people around the world. A number of books have been written claiming she is innocent and a couple of mainstream media organisations such ABC News and CNN have consistentyly reported only from the defense point of view. .

One of the saddest aspects of both cases is how increasingly both the real victims have come to be overlooked.

Gina Myers, a friend of Reeva Steenkamp, stated in an interview with the BBC that she feared Reeva Steinkamp was being overlooked.

Stephanie Kercher stated in an interview with the BBC in September 2011 that Meredith had been completely forgotten:

“Meredith Kercher has been “completely forgotten” in the four years since she was murdered on a study year abroad in Italy, her grieving sister has said.”

The most significant parallel is that both defendants are represented by PR consultants.

Oscar Pistorius has hired Stuart Higgins a London-based PR expert who worked in the newsroom of The Sun and then worked as the editor of the newspaper. Curt Knox hired David Marriott a PR consultant with over 30 years’ experience to represent his daughter.

According to Barbie Nadeau, Marriott “spoon-fed the Knox-approved message to American outlets who couldn’t afford to send correspondents to Italy”

If you read the countless articles in the media by journalists who push the notion that Amanda Knox is innocent, it’s quite clear they have been given the exact same false information from Knox’s family or their PR strong-armer David Marriott or their hatchet men such as Bruce Fischer, without any fact-checking at all.

There are some slight variations, but the basic account of the case is as follows.

Amanda Knox had never been trouble with the police. In days following Meredith’s murder, she voluntarily stayed behind to help the police in Perugia, but all Meredith’s friends left immediately. She was called to the police station on 5 November 2007 where she was subjected to an all-night interrogation. She wasn’t provided with an interpreter or given anything to eat or drink. She was beaten by the police and asked to imagine what might have happened.

During her questioning, Knox made a statement that said she had a “vision” she was at the cottage when Meredith was murdered. There were only two tiny pieces of DNA evidence that implicated her, but they were probably contaminated. The knife from Sollecito’s kitchen doesn’t match any of the wounds on Meredith’s body. Prosecutor Mignini claimed Meredith was killed as part of a satanic ritual and he called Amanda Knox a “she-devil”.

Rudy Guede was a drifter and drug dealer with a criminal record. He left his DNA all over Meredith and all over the crime scene. Amanda Knox didn’t know Rudy Guede.

The problem with the FOA fantasy version of events is that NOT ONE of these statements is true. And yet it was unquestioningly accepted as the gospel by numerous journalists in the mainstream media and it generated sympathetic media coverage.

Adam Boulton, the Political Editor of Sky News observed in an article that Amanda Knox’s family were treated with cloying sympathy when they appeared on Good Morning America:

Amanda “˜Foxy’ Knoxy, is the young American woman now on trial in Italy for the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher.

I was astonished to see her whole family, parents and children, invited on Good Morning America and treated with cloying sympathy for all the world as if they were victims of a miscarriage of justice.

It was noted by Joan Smith in an article for The Independent that the initial coverage of the case was initially sympathetic towards Pistorius:

“I didn’t hear this context mentioned on Thursday when it was reported that a woman had been shot dead at the home of the South African Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius. Radio 4’s Today programme suggested that Pistorius had killed his girlfriend after mistaking her for an intruder, a theme that was taken up elsewhere.

I listened with astonishment as broadcasters advanced what is almost certain to be Pistorius’s defence, citing the fear of crime which leads the wealthy in South Africa to live on estates with armed guards. The initial coverage was so sympathetic that it seemed to come as a shock when Pistorius was charged with murder later in the morning, prompting a screeching U-turn and the discovery of a “darker” side to his character.

There is a real problem in prosecuting famous people. It was pointed out to me by an experienced barrister that it’s almost impossible to convict someone who is famous.

OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dog, R Kelly, Ken Dodd, Steven Gerrard and John Terry were all very surprisingly acquitted of the various charges that they faced.  You could argue that Casey Anthony should be included in that list.

I hope that justice is finally served for both Meredith Kercher and Reeva Steenkamp and those responsible for their deaths receive lengthy custodial sentences for their brutal and cruel crimes.

I also hope that journalists covering the case don’t act as witless cheerleaders for the murder defendants, but make sure they meet the most basic of journalistic standards to ensure that their coverage of the cases is objective, balanced and factually accurate.

And that the real victims should not ever be forgotten.


Thank you, Machine, for a very astute article comparing these two cases. I would count Mike Tyson in as a famous person who (uncharacteristically) was actually convicted; but since then, everyone seems to have forgotten about his crime. At least, in his case, he did serve time.

In the day or two after the Steenkamp murder, I heard what you are talking about on the BBC radio (which we get at certain times of the day on our local NPR channel). The guests on the program kept talking about the fear of crime in South Africa, the gated communities, etc. I only listened for a few minutes, then turned it off in disgust, thinking, what does this have to do with the murder of a woman in her own home? Sigh…

Posted by Earthling on 03/07/13 at 04:38 AM | #

Thanks Machine, Steenkamp’s murder and Pistorius’s cover-ups are comparable to Meredith’s murder and the FOA cover-ups.

South African women are too often victims of extreme violence, and Pistorius is a national hero.

However,  I believe Pistorius is headed for a come-uppance of major jail time.

Google Mark Fuhrman on Pistorius.

Pistorius admits he killed her with 4 shots through the locked door.  The burglar alarm didn’t go off. The gun was on her side of the bed. She wasn’t in bed. What woman locks the door just to have a night-leak? Neighbours heard shouting. Police had been called before.

The PR campaign has too much to explain away

Posted by Cardiol MD on 03/07/13 at 06:21 AM | #


On the breaking news! I have a small comment.

I often say to friends that if you are vilified, don’t take it to heart. Most likely you were trying to do your job well. Most likely you have hurt some powerful people in the process. Look up and forward and just move on!

Sometimes good work will be recognized. Sometimes some mud will stick but you will learn to ignore it.

Posted by chami on 03/07/13 at 08:18 AM | #

The Pistorius case has already been botched by letting him out on bail. But my understanding is that South Africa doesn’t have jury trials so the ability of the PR campaign to work its magic is severely limited. My guess is, thanks to being let out on bail, he’ll either flee or try to commit suicide.

The Kercher case remains THE textbook on how to use a PR campaign to the killer’s advantage.

Posted by brmull on 03/07/13 at 08:43 AM | #

You mentioned the Stephen Gerrard case which is a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine. All but forgotten now and it would not have been newsworthy in the USA.

Gerrard was and still is a Liverpool FC and England football player who was tried over an assault that took place in a nightclub. Although the case was national news in England there was not a PR campaign per se any more than there was in, I would say, the OJ case. There did not need to be a campaign because of the local and national affection in which the individuals were already held. Same with Pistorius notwithstanding the current PR campaign but here I think Pistorius is being claimed as an international brand with a view to possible worldwide sale of books, movies etc.

In the Knox case this affection had to be manufactured ab initio and this was done by playing to american paranoia about foreigners and how “they hate us”. This was a prevalent mood after 9/11, a rich current to tap into.

Let me say that I also held Gerrard, and still do, in high regard, but for this incident.

What was astonishing about the case was that there was a video of the incident. I think that one can still see a clip on U-Tube though at one time there was an even better version of the incident but in any event, whichever version, the videos made it abundantly clear that Gerrard launched a series of punches at the head of the victim (the nightclub manager)who was sitting passively at the bar.

This was all over some trivial earlier incident involving Gerrard’s friend and the manager. Gerrard and his friends had been drinking heavily.

Gerrard claimed self defence - that he was acting in defence of his friend who he thought was about to be attacked by the manager. The defence was utterly preposterous on the basis of the video alone but he was acquitted nevertheless.

The trial took place in or near Liverpool (somewhere in Merseyside). Liverpudlians are charming but fiercely proud of their City and favourite sons (eg The Beatles) and since the death of a large number of Liverpool FC football fans in a crowd crush at Hillsborough (when the “behaviour” of the fans was wrongly villified in the tabloid press) there has also been a strong undercurrent of martyrdom in play. I suspect that this featured with the jury.

Well, there will always be perverse jury verdicts but what I found astonishing was that the judge echoed this mood by stating that Gerrard had been properly acquitted. This may have been a defensive remark but if so it shows that judges are not immune to public pressure.

Posted by James Raper on 03/07/13 at 11:36 AM | #

Hi brmull,

The FOA PR campaign seemed to influence Hellmann and Zanetti and I wonder whether it’s the reason why the original judge was replaced.

Posted by The Machine on 03/07/13 at 01:59 PM | #

Hi James

Interesting report. The jury of peers would also be part of the fan base. Liverpool is regarded fondly in the US as the Beatles are still in a huge orb. You may know that Yoko Ono paid for a memorial park (Strawberry Fields) right across Central Park West Avenue from the Dakota and there are always crowds in there, some of them too young to have been alive with John Lennon.

I both agree and disagree with brmull above. On Pistorious, he seems one way or another likely to slide.

But on Knox I think the choice of Marriott was a huge mistake. Curt Knox, a notorious hotheaded himself, surrounded himself with like kind. They needed a good lawyer to be out in front here who would have deviated from the truth 5% not 180% as Marriott’s orchs have done.  Marriott is too ugly for TV and many reporters despise him for his venom so they lack a compelling front. Italian legal processes tend to come in either one or three acts. What maybe helped in Act II is a millstone around their necks now for Act III. Their Seattle and Italy “team” has terminal weakness time at the very time now when they need strength.

I hope the Machine continues to track the Pistorious PR and see what effect it finally has.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/07/13 at 05:55 PM | #

Hi Machine.

Both Marriott and Fischer crowed about their “success” late in 2011 but Marriott at least soon went quiet again. We looked hard but the campaign doesnt seem to have a direct role in elevating Judge Hellmann instead of Judge Chiari to lead appeal judge on the case. Bongiorno had a good reason and better opportunity for that, and there was some tension among the Perugia judges at the time.

But the campaign did raise money by the ton, something your post doesnt make much mention of; that did allow a permanent K-M presence in the courtroom while the Kerchers could not afford to be there. Also it issued countless misleading messages to the presss. It did allow Hampikian to make it to Rome where we believe he was in touch with the US Ambassador and the DNA consultants C&V.  Let us cede the the second round to some extent to them.

However in the third round Judge Hellmann is now long gone, forced out, and his report universally discredited. A clear majority of Italians believe there was dirty play, either bribes ($2 m is rumored around Perugia) or dirty politics, and want that revresed. They have rallied to Mignini, and despise AK and especially now as sort of traitors to Italy both Sforza and RS.

If the families dont win this third round, including winding back the three years in prison Knox already served (labeling her a felon for life), and avoiding more charges for their books (already faced by Sollecito) what was the point? They would have been better served to chose the same sort of short trial as Guede in 2008 with automatic time off, and conceded as Mignini offered that it was a drug-fueled sex game where murder was not the intent.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/07/13 at 09:53 PM | #

I agree with James Raper that Pistorious had international adulation but, “in the Knox case this affection had to be manufactured ab initio.” For this the Knox PR threw smoke grenades, reverting to primitive energy that might equals right. “Let us make the client loved so he can be forgiven anything.”

Now here’s the Jodi Arias case blazing the same headlines as Knox. We have another self-hating female with serious identity issues and a dangerous penchant for proving how clever she is.

Jodi is drawn to the world stage just like Amanda but Jodi is articulate on the stand in contrast to Knox’s regressive sputtering. Despite two years before they took the stand they are both still hiding the truth. They forget nothing but the violence they do to others. Both their memories turn hazy then. They assure the jury they know all about sex though, as if that weren’t the least personalizing factor among mammals.

Both are natural born liars and chameleons searching for a male rescuer for the big issues of life, to create their missing identity and provide a role and safety. This need in itself seems fine and natural, a compensation for their emptiness, maybe a healing. I only wish they could have found a rescuer before their meltdowns that were paid for by innocent beautiful Merediths and Reevas. Envy is green in every claw.

The sad case of Cristina Onassis comes to mind although she self-destructed rather than aggressed. She felt rejected by her billionaire shipping magnate father, Aristotle Onassis. He favored her older brother but basically ignored both his children in their youth and divorced their mom. The beloved and handsome son Alexander grew up with no confidence although he tried to fit into the family business. He was a risk taker striving for recognition. In his 20s he died piloting his plane on a mission of mercy. This broke his father’s heart so that Onassis Sr. fell to pieces and died within two years of myasthenia gravis. He left a rich but rejected Cristina behind.

She blamed the family disaster on Jackie Kennedy and the Kennedy curse. Cristina rallied long enough to tie up huge business matters of Olympic Airways and the shipping concerns, refineries, etc. and to sever the final Kennedy-Onassis ties. Meanwhile she suffered several bad marriages but finally had a daughter by Thierry Roussel, her last husband. He was French, I believe heir to a big pharmaceutical fortune and temporarily broke. He treated her with contempt, flaunted his mistress and her children while Cristina paid his bills and was told how fat she was. She tried to start over with some man in Uruguay but sensed it would be a reprise of the same cruel insults. At a young age she committed suicide.

Money and power are not guarantees of success. Anxiety is the great destroyer. People need inner adjustment to the realities of life and a sense of unconditional love, of feeling valued, of being sure they contribute. This security is easily shaken if not established firmly in childhood. Jodi attempts to paint her father as abusive and her family as indifferent. Knox did not press the victim button on this point which I grudgingly respect, but I think Knox was truly the heir to a dysfunctional family. Her book may allude to this or conversely she may try to paint the all-American dream family she wants to identify with.

Posted by Hopeful on 03/07/13 at 10:59 PM | #

Hi Hopeful.

Poor Cristina Onassis. She drew a lot of sympathy at her end. And the Arias trial in Phoenix is more of a live roller coaster on TV than most people in the US have ever seen.

First she herself went on the stand for more than a week, bringing out the “mitigating factors” including the fact that her once-presumed husband was quite a rat.

Then the prosecution in cross examination zeroed in on the minute by minute facts on the day, and showed this looked a lot more like jealousy or revenge than a woman trapped.

Now in an astonishing move the deliberating jury itself has sent 150 questions back into the court for Arias to address.

I havent seen TV todsy but as of last night those parsing the tealeaves seemed to think she has dragged one or two jurors to her side.

She is certainly brighter and more articulate and empathetic than the plodding self-absorbed Knox.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/07/13 at 11:52 PM | #

Correction to the above. The jury has not yet started deliberating. There are still 18 of them, due to be whittled down to 12. The final questions suggest the self defense ploy sounds hollow to a lot on the jury.

You can still find commenters on website threads taking her miserable childhood and love-life and career arc into consideration, like Ritaprotz here.


[Ritaprotz] I think Jodi is probably someone who was pushed around most of her life by first her dad, then guys she dated. I bet she thought by agreeing to Travis’s sexual acts whether she really liked them or not, he would fall in love with her. When it became obvious he wasn’t going to, she was probably humiliated and angered once again. She went to visit him and participated in more things she really didn’t want to, and then if he truly did yell and come after her for dropping that camera, something in her snapped and she decided she was no longer going to be a victim of a man using her. I think what she did was wrong and she deserves to be punished. But I think the choices both her and Travis made led to that day, and could have been avoided if they had just been able to walk away for good. Hopefully other people in similar situations will stop and think.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/08/13 at 12:16 AM | #

There’s a Pistorius story here on his aggression and PR which adds weight to the Machine’s take above. Looks like his airbrushing by PR began long before this crime.


The South African athlete’s spectacular fall from grace shocked many who were inspired by his remarkable story of overcoming adversity to become an Olympian and a national hero.

But not everyone.

“Here, I think, you had a troubled athlete,” said South African sports journalist Graeme Joffe. “Not so much this incredible role model for the rest of the world—no question about that—but deep down, this was a troubled athlete.”

Joffe is one of the few South African journalists who has been critical of Pistorius. He said the PR machine behind the man they call Blade Runner has all but made him untouchable.

“So many incidents have happened and they’ve been well documented over the last five or six years with Oscar Pistorius,” said Joffe, who worked at CNN in the 1990s. “These kinds of cases have disappeared.”

The South African media has long adored Pistorius, some would say even protected him, by minimizing his problems. Yet, some of his friends and colleagues have cast doubt on the idyllic image of Pistorius portrayed by the press.

“It’s like we were waiting for something like this to happen,” said Marc Batchelor, a South African soccer player who socialized with Pistorius in South Africa’s glamor and sports circles.

Batchelor described Pistorius as someone who “had a trip switch,” quick to get angry and fight. Pistorius caused “a lot of problems,” he said.

Batchelor said Pistorius once wanted to fight him because the track star thought his girlfriend was cheating on him. Pistorius, who Batchelor described as drunk, started yelling and swearing over the phone.

“He said he’s not scared. If I want to come down there, he knows where I am, and blah blah blah. But I left it,” Batchelor told CNN.

One thing many people don’t know, Batchelor said, is that Pistorius was armed nearly everywhere he went. He even applied to become a licensed gun collector so he could buy more guns than the four that South Africans are allowed, according to Carvel Webb, chairman of an umbrella organization for South Africa’s private gun collectors, including Pistorius.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/08/13 at 12:21 AM | #

The Machine mentions his UK PR guru Stuart Higgens.

Pistorius had a South African PR firm as well, appointed by Higgens from London. Looks like they have had enough and even Higgens (image below) is running into a lot of heat. .


Pistorius parts ways with PR advisers

South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius is set to part ways with the public relations firm hired after he was arrested for killing his girlfriend, the company says.

At times, Pistorius’s PR representatives have risked becoming the story.

This week, they very publicly chastened Pistorius’s father for claiming that white South Africans need guns because the ANC government does not protect them.

[The firm also said the family let them down in not proving to be strong fronts. The father made a remark about needing guns that many found racist.]


Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/08/13 at 12:29 AM | #

I heard about a bloody cricket stick found in the house of Pistorious, and then no mention of it…anywhere.

Many friends of his say they are not shocked he let his dark side take over.

Blessings to Steenkamp’s family and friends, and a small prayer they will not bear the cruelties the Kercher family lived thru.

Posted by Bettina on 03/08/13 at 02:52 AM | #

According to a police spokeswoman, the police had been called to Oscar Pistorius’ house before to deal with domestic incidents:

Posted by The Machine on 03/08/13 at 03:22 AM | #

Steve Moore said Pistorius was innocent because double amputee Olympians don’t shoot their girlfriends.  What other cases are there to support the idea that they do?

Also, he added that the Pistorius confession that he had shot his girlfriend was coerced by corrupt police only after interrogation that continued uninterrupted for five weeks straight with Pistorius not getting any food or water.

He also said that the bullets travelled from the bathroom to the bedroom because the bullets ended up in the bathroom and the victims body was in the bathroom but she had been previously alive in the bedroom. However, the kitchen might figure into it if she had been hungry at some point during the day.

Oh, and zebras.

Posted by Jeff Friend on 03/08/13 at 04:02 AM | #

Zebras! We have a shot of Steve-In-A-Bubble and his zebra here.

Did you know I got him fired from Pepperdine? At leas that’s what his wife has often claimed. I did that precisely… how?!

In fact I had no contact, ever, with Pepperdine and Steve’s firing, though I think it was justified, came as a surprise.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/08/13 at 04:09 AM | #

People desperately need heroes, and sports stars are way up there on the hero lists. Celebrities commit ugly acts all the time (didn’t Halle Berry knock someone down with her car and drive away? But she is cute as a tick and on the cover of People desperately needing heroes Magazine at least once a year).

The masses live vicariously through winners; if they fail, so do “we”. Genocidal former dictators are welcomed back and feted in countries still drenched in their victims’ blood. Why? How is this possible? Because there are yet so many weak sheep who mistakenly cling to the desire to be saved by the powerful.

There is corruption ala Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods, both of whom could have found more ready sympathy in being honest about their transgressions at the first whiff oof public discovery. Then there is brutality, as with Pistorious and other wife/ girlfriend/ bar manager beatings. That I find far harder to explain away, and it should be far harder to dismiss!

Posted by mimi on 03/11/13 at 11:03 PM | #
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry FBI Reporting Close Co-operation With Italy In Arresting And Soon Extraditing A Fugitive Swindler

Or to previous entry An Overview From Italy #3 Dr Michel Giuttari Speaks Out About The Trumped Up Florence Case