South African Paralympic and Olympic athlete sobs in court after being formally charged with the murder of his girlfriend
Oscar Pistorius, the South African “Blade Runner”, has been formally charged with the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
The 26-year-old Paralympic and Olympic athlete appeared in court this morning and is said to have broken down in tears as he heard how the prosecution will argue he committed premeditated murder. If convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius could be sentenced to life in prison.
Pistorius is to remain in police custody, with an application for bail postponed until next Tuesday.
AW reported yesterday how Steenkamp had been found shot dead at Pistorius’ home in Pretoria, South Africa, in the early hours of Thursday.
Police have given few further details about the shooting, other than to confirm that the 30-year-old model died of gunshot wounds. She is said to have been shot four times, with local media reporting that she was shot through a bathroom door.
Early reports said Pistorius may have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder, however, in a police press conference on Thursday a spokeswoman dismissed those early reports and also revealed that police had been called to the athlete’s address in the past to deal with “allegations of a domestic nature”. Pistorius and Steenkamp had reportedly been dating since November.
A statement issued through Pistorius’ family and management company states the athlete disputes the allegation that he murdered his girlfriend ‘in the strongest terms’.
It continued to state: “Firstly, and most importantly, all our thoughts today must be with the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp.
“Oscar Pistorius has appeared in court here in Pretoria this morning formally charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms.
“These are now live and active legal proceedings which must be allowed to take their course through the process of proper investigation by the police, evidence-gathering and through the local South African judicial system.
“In a short hearing lawyers representing the athlete asked for a postponement for a bail application until Tuesday next week to allow time for their own investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy, which was agreed by the Magistrate, who also agreed that Pistorius would be held in custody at a local police station.
“Oscar Pistorius has made history as an Olympic and Paralympic sportsman and has been an inspiration to others the world over.
“He has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva. He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received – but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family – regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy.”
In response to a question on twitter as to whether there were ‘any signs of remorse from the accused’, Eyewitness News Pretoria correspondent Barry Bateman stated: “Yes. He appears shattered. He is battling to contain emotions.”
People have been left stunned over the news, with the athlete idolised by many for having helped unite disabled and able-bodied sport.
Known as the “Blade Runner” because he races wearing carbon fibre prosthetic blades, Pistorius made history at London 2012 when he became the first double amputee to run in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
The London 2012 Olympic 400m semi-finalist also won gold in the T44 400m at the Paralympics, setting a Paralympic record in the process, as well as silver in the T44 200m and gold in the 4×100 relay.
As with many sporting stars, Pistorius has a number of high-profile sponsors, including BT and Nike. Nike commented only to say that the incident “is a police matter” and that they will continue to “monitor the situation closely”. Yesterday an advert which depicted Pistorius leaving the starting blocks and included the sentence ‘I am the bullet in the chamber’ was removed from his official website.