March 4, 2014 at 7:41 AM ET
June Steenkamp, the mother of the woman shot and killed by Oscar Pistorius last February, said she hasn't passed judgment on the man accused of murdering her daughter, nor does she wish him any harm.
"It's actually important to forgive him, for me, because I don’t want to live with bitterness in my life," she told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday in her first live interview since the trial started. "I don’t want that. I think that one has to forgive.
"If he made a mistake, and it’s an enormous mistake ... and I’ve lost everything that’s important to me, but still, I can forgive. I can forgive," she said.
Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot to death last Feb. 14 inside his South African home. Prosecutors allege Pistorius had planned out the early morning Valentine’s Day murder, but the defendant insists he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for a burglar.
June Steenkamp was in court Monday on the first day of the trial, in hopes of catching Pistorius' eye. "I wanted to see Oscar face-to-face and that he would know that I was there."
She said her husband recently had a small stroke so she attended the trial for them both to represent their daughter. But Pistorius looked straight ahead when he entered the courtroom.
"He just walked into the courtroom and he looked straight ahead, and then he sat down and never looked my way at all," she said.
Authorities have pointed out that Reeva Steenkamp was shot while hiding in a locked, upstairs bathroom. They say Pistorius fired his gun four times through the bathroom door, hitting his girlfriend with three of the bullets. He then carried Steenkamp downstairs while awaiting authorities.
Attorneys for Pistorius, a double amputee Paralympic athlete, maintain their client had no motive for the shooting and say there is no evidence to indicate premeditation.
In the courtroom on Monday, a neighbor testified she heard a woman screaming before a burst of gunfire on the night of the shooting.
“Because of the climax of her shouts I knew something terrible was happening in that house,” said Michelle Burger, who sometimes spoke through a translator.
“Then I also heard a man screaming for help, and three times he yelled for help,” she said. “Just after her screams, my lady, I heard four shots.”
Pistorius became a South African icon after he became the rare athlete to cross over from the Paralympics to the Olympics. He got his "Blade Runner'' nickname because of the carbon fiber prosthetic blades he wears while racing.
June Steenkamp said her daughter told her very little about Pistorius before she died.
“I actually never met him and Reeva didn’t say that much about the relationship,” she said. “It was a very short, short relationship. I think it was about three months.”
Steenkamp declined to say whether she believes Pistorius is telling the truth about what happened the night her daughter died.
"I'm going to depend on the justice system that we get justice and we get answers, and I’ve got confidence in that," she said. "It doesn’t matter what happens to Oscar because my daughter is never coming back, and it's not going to change anything as far as that goes."
Steenkamp said she expects more facts to emerge from the trial.
"We just want the truth. We want the truth of what happened," she said. "Only she and Oscar were there, and she's not here anymore.... I don’t wish him any harm. I just want the truth."