Pistorius bows head, sobs in formal court appearance

Oscar Pistorius weeps in court in Pretoria today. Picture: AP

Blade runner Oscar Pistorius broke down in tears as he appeared in court today accused of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend at his exclusive South African home.

The world’s best-known Paralympian was taken into custody yesterday after Reeva Steenkamp, 30, was shot dead at the luxury gated Silver Lakes Golf Estate in Pretoria. He will remain in police custody until next week.

Pistorius, 26, sat with his head bowed when he was brought before magistrates in the capital this morning.

He began to sob, covering his face with his hands, as the charge against him was read out.

Chief magistrate Desmond Nair told him: “Take it easy. Come take a seat.”

The prosecution has told the court that it will argue that Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he allegedly shot Reeva Steenkamp dead.

The judge in the case has agreed to the defence's request that a bail hearing be postponed until next Tuesday.

Until then, Pistorius will be kept at a police station in Brooklyn, Pretoria.

The sprinter is expected to apply for bail, but police have said they will oppose any such application.

The gold-medal winner, who earned his Blade Runner nickname because of his prosthetic racing legs, was met by a media frenzy as he arrived at the packed court house dressed in a sober grey suit and blue tie.

Earlier, he attempted to obscure his identity, covering his face with a jacket and a note pad as he was driven into the precincts.

The track superstar, who was supported by his father Henke, brother Carl and sister Aimee in court, was told prosecutors would pursue a charge of premeditated murder.

The hearing came after a two-hour delay while the athlete’s lawyers objected to the scrum of local and international reporters who turned out to witness his dramatic fall from grace.

His arrest yesterday triggered shock across the globe and prompted rumours that he may have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder in what could have been a Valentine’s Day surprise gone wrong.

But police swiftly distanced themselves from the suggestion and said there had been previous incidents of a “domestic nature” at Pistorius’s property.

Miss Steenkamp’s body was discovered at around 3am, after neighbours reported hearing screams and gunshots coming from the sprinter’s home.

According to the Beeld newspaper, the model was blasted four times through a bathroom door.

Officers said she was shot in the head and upper body. They recovered a 9mm pistol from the scene.

Since then, there has been heated speculation over precisely what may have occurred in the early hours of the morning.

A picture has emerged of a volatile man who was said to sleep with a revolver by his bedside and a machine gun by his window amid fears for his safety.

He began dating Steenkamp, a law graduate, in November and the couple were dubbed the Posh and Becks of South Africa.

She had apparently been looking forward to Valentine’s Day.

On Wednesday she tweeted: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? £getexcited £ValentinesDay.”

Her publicist Sarit Tomlinson paid tribute to “the sweetest human being and an absolute angel on earth” following her death and said the model was “about to hit the big time”.

Asked about Steenkamp’s relationship with Pistorius, Ms Tomlinson told BBC Radio 5: “They had been together for a couple of months and it’s been a fabulous relationship – a healthy, fabulous relationship.”

She spoke out as the athlete was taken to Pretoria’s Mamelodi Day Hospital in a police convoy for a “standard” medical examination.

Meanwhile, forensic officers carried out searches at his home.

A gun was later pictured in what appeared to be an evidence bag.

Pistorius made history at the London 2012 Olympics by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete in the 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.

Mr 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.”

South Africa’s M-Net cable TV channel pulled adverts featuring the star off air immediately after his arrest.

Sports apparel group Nike, along with most of his sponsors, said they would not make any decisions until the police investigation was completed.

His sponsorship deals – with firms including BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler – are thought to be worth as much as £1.3m a year.

Pistorius will be held at a local police station until his next court appearance, after today’s proceedings were adjourned.

A bail hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, when police are expected to oppose the application.

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