Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympian, was charged with murder for the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, his model girlfriend.
Pistorius, 26, wore a dark suit and wept during the hearing at the Pretoria Magistrates Court. Steenkamp, 29, was shot dead in Pistorius’s home in a gated community on the eastern outskirts of Pretoria yesterday, Valentine’s Day. He will be kept in jail after the bail hearing was postponed until Feb. 19 to give more time for investigations. Pistorius’s father, brother and sister sat behind the runner in court.
“The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms,” his family said in an e-mailed statement from Fast Track agency in London today. “He has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva.”
Pistorius, dubbed “the Blade Runner” because of his double leg amputation and prosthetic running blades, has won six Paralympic gold medals. He became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games in London last year and was named by Time Magazine in its list of the world’s 100 most-influential people. Pistorius was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old.
“The charge is murder,” Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, said at the court today. The prosecution will argue it was “premeditated murder,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said.
Police have interviewed witnesses, including neighbors, who heard noises from Pistorius’s home at the Silver Woods complex, a gated community in eastern Pretoria, in the hours before the shooting, Police Brigadier Denise Beukes said yesterday. There were previous incidents of “a domestic nature” at the house, she said, declining to give further details.
Some sponsors are reviewing their affiliation to Pistorius.
“This is news to me,” Jon Sigurdsson, chief executive officer of Ossur Hf, which manufactured his Flex-Foot Cheetah Blades, said by phone from Reykjavik today. “We’ll look into this matter.”
Multichoice, a South African satellite TV company owned by Naspers Ltd., pulled an advertising campaign and removed billboards featuring Pistorius “out of respect and sympathy to the bereaved,” spokeswoman Lani Lombard said in an e-mailed response to questions. Nike Inc. and BT Group Plc, a telecommunications provider, expressed condolences in separate e-mails and declined to comment further.
Steenkamp got a degree in law from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, was voted in the Top 100 most attractive women last year in FHM’s South Africa edition and was a television presenter, according to her publicist Sarit Tomlinson.
“Her whole life, what she could have achieved, never came to fulfillment,” her uncle, Mike Steenkamp, said in an interview broadcast on eNCA, a Johannesburg-based television channel. “She is with the angels.”
South Africa recorded 30.9 murders per 100,000 people in the 12-month period through March 2012, down from 31.9 per 100,000, the South African Police Service said on Sept. 20. The murder rate has fallen since reaching 67.9 per 100,000 in 1995, when the police force was integrated after the end of all-white, apartheid rule. South Africa’s murder rate is more than six times that of the U.S.
Pistorius competed in his first able-bodied elite event at the 2011 track and field world championships in Daegu, South Korea. He got his chance after sport’s highest tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in 2008 overturned a ban on him competing against able-bodied athletes imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations, which said his blades give him an advantage.
As a child, he played sports including water polo, cricket, tennis and boxing. As part of his rehabilitation after injuring his knee while playing rugby as a 16-year-old, Pistorius took up track running. A year later he won the gold medal in the 200 meters at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.