Pistorius in court on murder charge
Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius arrived at a court in South Africa today, charged with murdering his girlfriend at his home in Pretoria.
The gold-medal winner, known as the Blade Runner for his use of prosthetic legs, earlier left a police station with a coat over his head and arrived at the court amid a media frenzy, TV footage showed. His hearing before magistrates will take place at 9am, it was reported.
Pistorius, 26, was arrested yesterday over the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, 30, who had been shot in the head and upper body.
Initial reports suggested the model might have been mistaken for a burglar, but Brigadier Denise Beukes later said police were "very surprised" by that suggestion, adding: "These allegations did not come from us."
There had been previous incidents of a “domestic nature” at the property on the exclusive, gated Silver Lakes Golf Estate in the South African capital Pretoria, she added.
A 9mm pistol was recovered and, according to unconfirmed reports, four shots were fired.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Katlego Mogale said: “Paramedics declared the woman dead on the scene and police proceeded with their investigation. The woman sustained wounds to her head and the upper body.”
Police said an application for bail by Pistorius’s lawyer Kenny Oldwage would be opposed.
Dressed in a grey hooded jacket, tracksuit trousers and trainers, Pistorius, 26, walked with head bowed from Boschkop police station yesterday before being taken to Pretoria’s Mamelodi Day Hospital in a police convoy.
Ms Beukes said the medical examination was “standard procedure”.
Mr Oldwage told reporters: “He is very well, obviously emotional, but he is fine.”
Pistorius’ spokesman, from the Fast Track agency in London, said he was “assisting the police with their investigations” but no further comment could be made until matters became clearer.
Initial rumours suggested the shooting may have been a Valentine’s Day surprise gone wrong. The couple had only been going out since November.
Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, tweeted the day before Valentine’s Day: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? £getexcited £ValentinesDay.”
Pistorius appeared to have serious concerns about his safety and was said to sleep with a revolver by his side.
A journalist from the Daily Mail interviewed him last summer and said: “This being South Africa, one baseball bat and one cricket bat lie behind Pistorius’s bedroom door. A revolver is at his bedside; a machine gun by his window.”
The athlete made history at the London 2012 Olympics by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete in the able-bodied Games, running in the 400m and 4x400m relay.
The star was born without fibulas and underwent below-the-knee amputations at 11 months old.
He had to win a legal battle over his blades with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 2008 for the right to compete in able-bodied competition.
Pistorius’ father said his son was “sad” following the shooting.
Henke Pistorius told SABC radio news: “I don’t know the facts. If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be Oscar. He’s sad at the moment.”
'She really was a pure soul'
The couple were dubbed the Posh and Becks of South Africa.
On her Twitter biography, Steenkamp described herself as a “Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island Of Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God”.
Tropika Island Of Treasure is a TV show she was due to appear on this weekend.
Her publicist Sarit Tomlinson paid tribute to her, saying she was “the sweetest human being and an absolute angel on earth”.
She added: “She was the kindest, most unbelievable girl.”
Ms Tomlinson told BBC Radio 5: “She really was an angel. She was compassionate, she was all about the people around her, always making people smile, she really was a pure soul.
“And she was about to hit the big time. She had been a model for a while, we had some incredible opportunities lined up for her, of which none are going to materialise now, so it is a very devastating day to her family, to everyone who knew her.”
Asked about the situation, she told Sky News: “It’s shocking. No one knows what happened. We’re waiting for information. There are people we are waiting to speak to, to validate some of the stories.”
Asked about Steenkamp’s relationship with Pistorius, Ms Tomlinson said: “They had been together for a couple of months and it’s been a fabulous relationship - a healthy, fabulous relationship.”
Steenkamp’s friend Mashadi Motsogi broke down in tears.
The distressed model said she heard the news of Steenkamp’s death on Twitter.
“I have lost a friend,” she said, telling reporters that the death in a secure complex did not make sense.
“Look, security here is safe. We moved to this area for security reasons. It does not make sense to me that my friend was shot, mistaken for an intruder.”
Italian journalist Gianni Merlo, who co-authored Pistorius’s autobiography, Blade Runner, spoke of his shock.
He also told how he felt the cult of celebrity that became attached to Pistorius had changed him.
“In the last year he has changed so much compared to the past, compared to the man that I have known, a man full of joy, of life, that was teaching us what it means to appreciate life,” he told BBC Radio 5.
Speaking of Pistorius’s criticism of the blades worn by his fellow sprinter, Brazilian Alan Oliveira, during last year’s Paralympics, Mr Merlo said it was something he would never have done before, and suggested the celebrity lifestyle could have led him to “forget his origin”.
But Mr Merlo also said Pistorius had changed history, making the Paralympics as important as the Olympics.
“He has helped to bring a kind of cultural revolution, but after now maybe he is a victim of his revolution,” he said.
“For me he was a kind of guy that I would like to have around in the home to speak with him, to speak about the joy of life.”