Oscar Pistorius, the South African gold-medal winning Paralympian, will remain in jail until a bail hearing on Feb. 19 after he was charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius, 26, held his face and wept yesterday during his first appearance in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court. Magistrate Desmond Nair delayed the bail hearing to allow the runner’s lawyers more time to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Steenkamp, 29, at his home in the city on Feb. 14. Pistorius’s brother, Carl, who was sitting alongside his father and sister, laid a hand on the sprinter’s back as Nair ordered he be sent to a Pretoria jail.
The prosecution will argue it was “premeditated murder” and will oppose bail, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said. Pistorius’s family expressed disagreement with the charge today.
“We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state’s own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or indeed any murder at all,” Arnold Pistorius, the runner’s uncle, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are all grieving for Reeva, her family and her friends. Oscar -– as you can imagine -– is also numb with shock as well as grief.”
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 included on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most-influential people. Pistorius was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated below the knee at 11 months old.
Pistorius and Steenkamp “had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time,” his uncle said. “The lives of our entire family have been turned upside down forever by this unimaginable human tragedy and Reeva’s family have suffered a terrible loss.”
Police have interviewed witnesses, including neighbors, who heard noises from Pistorius’s home in Silver Woods Country Estate, a gated community on the eastern outskirts of Pretoria, in the hours before the shooting, Police Brigadier Denise Beukes said on Feb. 14. There were previous incidents of “a domestic nature” at the house, she said, declining to give further details.
Silver Woods describes itself as a “prestigious security estate” enclosed by a “solid, electrified security wall,” according to its website.
Some companies were reviewing their sponsorship of Pistorius.
“We’ll look into this matter,” Jon Sigurdsson, chief executive officer of Ossur Hf, which manufactured his Flex-Foot Cheetah Blades, said by phone yesterday from Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital.
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 U.K. telecommunications provider, expressed condolences in separate e-mails and declined to comment further.
Steenkamp got a degree in law from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and was voted among the Top 100 most attractive women last year in FHM’s South Africa edition, according to her publicist, Sarit Tomlinson.
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 a year earlier, 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.