Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympic sprinter who has been charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, attended a bail hearing on Tuesday where he denied intentionally killing the 29-year-old model in his home on Valentine’s Day. In a prepared statement, Pistorius told prosecutors that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar, shooting her through the door of his bathroom while she was locked inside.
That same day, Francois Hougaard, the 24-year-old rugby player who reportedly dated Steenkamp in the past and was rumored to have texted her the night of her death, possibly sparking an argument between her and Pistorius, attended Steenkamp’s funeral in Port Elizabeth where he declined to speak to the press.
Hougaard, who plays rugby for the Pretoria-based team the Blue Bulls and the national team the Spingboks, entered the scandal as media outlets began reporting that the athlete might have been involved in a love triangle with Steenkamp and Pistorius. As the Mirror noted, the rumor gained traction after Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, mentioned it on Twitter. “Have you heard rumours about a rugby player alleged to be involved somehow? We all have,” journalist Barry Bateman wrote in a message that was retweeted by la Grange.
According to the Telegraph, South African police are now investigating text messages and social media correspondence between Hougaard and Steenkamp, including a message that Hougaard sent to Steenkamp’s iPad on the night of her death.
Although Hougaard and Steenkamp allegedly had a romantic past, the two remained close friends and shared an agent; Hougaard was even said to be on friendly terms with Pistorius. Shortly before Steenkamp’s death, Hougaard posted a photo of the three enjoying a meal together on Twitter, the Daily News reported.
On Friday, one day after Steenkamp’s death, Hougaard retweeted a picture of the two smiling with a group of friends. “Happier times with special people,” Hougaard’s friend Justin Divaris wrote, in a message Hougaard retweeted. “We all miss you so much Reevs."
Despite reports that Hougaard’s correspondence with Steenkamp might be used by the prosecution team at Pistorius’ bail hearing as evidence of a murder motive, Hougaard’s press rep, Lorinda Voges, maintained that the rugby star was not involved in the scandal and would not comment on it.
“Our client will not comment on any rumours or answer any questions regarding Reeva Steenkamp or Oscar Pistorius at this stage as this is still an ongoing investigation ... this sad ordeal has nothing to do with him,” Voges said.
In Pistorius’ bail hearing on Tuesday he denied that Steenkamp’s death was anything other than a tragic accident. "I didn't kill Reeva," Pistorius said, reading from a statement. "I deny that I committed murder in the strongest point. I tried to save Reeva but she died in my arms. I can’t stand how much hurt I’ve caused.”
"I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated,” he continued. "I had no intention to kill my girlfriend.”