The BBC has pulled a trailer for a documentary on convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius after viewers criticised the broadcaster for portraying him as a victim and not naming Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he shot dead in 2013.
The trailer for The Trials Of Oscar Pistorius quoted admirers of the former Paralympian hailing him as a ‘nice guy’, suggesting that Steenkamp’s death was an ‘accident’ and saying Pistorius had been ‘thrown to the wolves’ during his trial.
Critics berated the BBC for failing to mention Steenkamp’s name and said the trailer was ‘erasing’ her memory and suggesting that Pistorius’s fall from grace was the real tragedy of the story.
Pistorius, 33, had his conviction for killing Steenkamp upheld by South Africa’s highest court in 2018 and is serving a 13-year prison sentence for her murder.
Reeva Steenkamp in 2012 with Oscar Pistorius who is serving a 13-year prison sentence for murdering her on Valentine’s Day in 2013
The BBC announced in a statement this evening: ‘We have removed the trail for The Trials of Oscar Pistorius that was posted on social media earlier today.
‘We regret that the original trail did not refer to Reeva Steenkamp directly.
‘We are aware of the upset it has caused, which was never the intention. We have removed the trail and it will be replaced by something more representative of the series, which examines in detail a number of complex issues connected to her murder.’
The trailer for the show, originally commissioned for ESPN, begins with a segment about Pistorius’s success as a Paralympian and Olympian, mentioning his ‘remarkable’ achievements and showing him being lauded by Nelson Mandela.
The preview clip then moves on to Pistorius’s murder case, quoting the South African as saying: ‘I didn’t mean to do it.’
Pistorius claimed in court that Steenkamp’s death was an accident, maintaining that he fired through a bathroom door because he mistook her for an intruder.
The trailer for the BBC series included a segment about Pistorius’s athletic successes but did not mention Steenkamp by name
But a court found him guilty of Steenkamp’s murder in 2016 after he had initially been convicted of manslaughter.
One person quoted in the trailer said she had ‘always believed it was an accident’, while another said Pistorius ‘absolutely, positively knew [Steenkamp] was in the bathroom’.
Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate who was famous in her own right in South Africa, is pictured but not named in the trailer,
One critic, Emma Champion, said: ‘Her name was Reeva and he killed her. That’s why he was on trial.
‘I am appalled at the title and that you think he’s worthy of a documentary. Her name was Reeva Steenkamp.’
The trailer for the BBC programme showed Pistorius being lauded by Nelson Mandela
Screenwriter Sarah Phelps said: ‘The framing of this is heinous and is justifiably going down like a cup of cold sick. Do better.’
Feminist campaigner Jean Hatchet said: ‘Seriously. This is an insult to murdered women and their families across the globe. This should not be aired at all.
‘Show some respect. He had his murder trial for his lies. She doesn’t get a right to reply because he murdered her.’
Freelance creative director Nathalie Gordon asked: ‘When will we begin to reframe these narratives and stop erasing victims in favour of blindly celebrating murderers and rapists?
‘Her name is Reeva Steenkamp. She’s not ‘the girlfriend’ and she’s not just a side note in this story.’
Writer Kate Harding satirised the trailer’s portrayal of Pistorius by saying: ‘It is always so sad when an exceptional man is brought down by a woman who gets in the way of his bullets.’
The director of the documentary, Daniel Gordon, said gender-based violence was part of a ‘breadth of issues’ on which the film would ‘provide a lens’.
‘My hope is that the film gives audiences additional context and layers to a story they think they know,’ he said.
Pistorius in court in 2015, during a lengthy legal process which eventually saw him convicted for Steenkamp’s murder and jailed for more than 13 years
Pistorius in action during the 2012 Olympic Games in London
The documentary is due to appear on BBC iPlayer next month, more than seven-and-a-half years after Steenkamp’s death on Valentine’s Day 2013.
After his conviction was upgraded to murder in 2016, Pistorius had his sentence more than doubled from six years to 13 years and five months in 2017.
Rights groups had said that Pistorius received preferential treatment in a country with a dire record of violent crimes against women.
The judge who increased his sentence said Pistorius’s apology to Steenkamp’s family during an earlier hearing did ‘not demonstrate any genuine remorse on his part’.
In 2018, Pistorius finally ran out of legal options when South Africa’s Constitutional Court dismissed an application to appeal his sentence.
‘Oscar Pistorius has exhausted his legal avenues in terms of the criminal process,’ prosecutors said at the time.
Pistorius must serve at least half of his 13-year sentence before he can be considered for parole.