Pistorius breaks down in court as he is charged with murder of girlfriend

Sat, Feb 16, 2013, 00:00

Oscar Pistorius’s family and management company yesterday disputed the murder charge laid against the Paralympic gold medallist after a highly charged court appearance in which the athlete broke down.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the South African sprinter’s supporters said they contested, in the “strongest terms”, the allegation that he murdered his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp (30), in the early hours of St Valentine’s Day.

“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,” the statement said.

“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.”

South Africa woke on St Valentine’s Day to the news that one of their favourite local celebrities had allegedly shot his equally famous girlfriend at his home.

Shot four times

One report yesterday, in the Afrikaans newspaper Beeld, maintained that police found Ms Steenkamp’s body in the bathroom when they arrived on the scene, and that she had been shot four times through the door.

After a day in police custody Mr Pistorius (26) made his first appearance in court yesterday.

Upon his arrival at the courthouse in a police van, he was faced by a barrage of cameras and public attention.

His father, Henke, and sister were in attendance. The clearly shaken Mr Pistorius began crying when greeted by the magistrate, Desmond Nair, according to the limited number of reporters allowed inside the courtroom to witness the proceedings.

During the short hearing, the court heard the state intended to pursue a case of premeditated murder against Mr Pistorius, who was formally charged.

The case was adjourned to Tuesday, when he is expected to apply for bail.

The police will oppose the application for bail and will argue that he should remain in custody until the end of any trial.

Since the story broke on Thursday, rumour and speculation have hit near fever pitch as to why a man who appeared to have it all in terms of fame, wealth and public adoration might commit such a crime.

The pair had been dating for only a few months after meeting at an awards ceremony.

Interest in guns

What has emerged is the suggestion that charming and well-liked Mr Pistorius is a complicated man.

His evident love of guns – he kept several and frequented a local firing range – and apparent fear of being burgled – something he has mentioned in several interviews – have received a lot of public attention.

In the months after he made history at the Olympic Games last summer, where he became the first double-amputee athlete to compete in the able-bodied competition, Mr Pistorius gave several face-to-face interviews to journalists at his home.

He took a New York Times journalist to a shooting range to teach him how to use a gun, while a British Daily Mail reporter wrote that he kept a gun beside his bed, a baseball bat behind the door, and a machine gun by the window.

Mr Pistorius’s apparent wild side has also been trawled over. A number of brushes with the law and confrontations with rivals over love-interests have come to the fore.

In 2009, for instance, Mr Pistorius spent a night in jail after a young women he had ejected from a party accused him of injuring her. As it turns out, he apparently shut the door on her and as it slammed a wood panel broke free and hit her on the leg.

No charges were brought against him in relation to this incident.

Friends shocked

Friends of Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp have been telling the press how shocked they are by what has happened because they believed the couple were in love.

Police have confirmed that witnesses have come forward saying they heard arguments at Mr Pistorius’s house on the evening before the shooting took place.

But the true circumstances surrounding Ms Steenkamp’s death remain unclear and the investigation still has a long way to go.