Court remands Pistorius in custody

South African 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius (left) is escorted by police at a Pretoria police station yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

South African 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius (left) is escorted by police at a Pretoria police station yesterday. Photograph: Reuters


South African superstar athlete Oscar Pistorius is to remain in custody as the judge in a Pretoria court postponed his murder case until next Tuesday.

Prosecutors told the court today they will argue that Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead at his luxury home yesterday.

Pistorius faces life in prison if found guilty. He did not enter a plea but a statement issued by his family and London-based agent said the charge was disputed "in the strongest possible terms".

"He (Pistorius) has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva," the statement said, in the first message attributed to him since his arrest.

Pistorius, a double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, broke down in tears after being formally charged with the murder this morning.

Dressed in a dark suit, the 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic superstar stood with head bowed in front of magistrate Desmond Nair to hear the charge of one count of murder read out.

He then started sobbing, covering his face with his hands. "Take it easy. Come take a seat," Judge Nair told him.

The downfall of the track superstar has stunned a nation that reveres "the fastest man on no legs" as a hero who triumphed over adversity to compete with able-bodied athletes at the highest levels of sport.

Steenkamp (30), a model, was found shot dead in his plush Pretoria home in the early hours of yesterday, police said. The Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper said she had been hit four times, in the head, chest, pelvis and hand.

"The security guards found Pistorius by Steenkamp's body in the bathroom," the paper said on its website, citing a neighbour. "The door had bullet holes right through it."

Police said neighbours had heard noises before the shots and that there had been previous "domestic" incidents at the house.

Pistorius was held overnight in a Pretoria police station. This morning he was led, flanked by family members and officers, to a police station wagon to be taken to the capital's central magistrate's court.

The hearing was delayed for two hours as his defence lawyers objected to the scrum of local and international reporters packed into the courtroom.

Emotional icon

South African newspapers plastered the killing across their front pages, relegating a state of the nation address by President Jacob Zuma in parliament to a distant second.

The coverage reflected shock and dismay at the fall of a sporting legend who commanded rare respect on all sides of South Africa's racial divides.

"Golden Boy Loses Shine" ran a front page headline in the Sowetan, beside a picture of Pistorius, head bowed in a grey hooded tracksuit being led away from a police station.

Callers to morning radio shows expressed sadness at the death of Steenkamp, who had been due to give a talk at a Johannesburg school this week about violence against women.

There was also widespread disbelief at the fate of a sportsman regarded as a genuinely "good guy".

"How is it possible for one so high to fall so low so quickly?" Talk Radio 702 host John Robbie asked.

A 9mm pistol was recovered from Pistorius's modern two-storey house in the middle of a heavily guarded gated complex in the northern outskirts of the South African capital.

He was held overnight at Pretoria's Boschkop police station after undergoing medical and forensic examinations.  "He is doing well, but very emotional," his lawyer, Kenny Oldwage, told SABC TV, but gave no further comment.

South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel immediately pulled adverts featuring Pistorius off air but most of his sponsors, including sports apparel group Nike, said they would not make any decisions until the police investigation was completed.

Pistorius' endorsements and sponsorships, which also include British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler, are thought to be worth as much as $2 million a year.

Olympics setback

Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metres semi-finals in London 2012.

In last year's Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 metres in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades, but was quick to express regret for the comments.

South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many homeowners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius's complex is surrounded by a three-metre high wall and electric fence.

Near the home, people who knew Pistorius recalled a much-loved local hero.

"Some of us were in tears," said Precious, who works at a petrol station where Pistorius used to fill up his McLaren supercar, signing autographs and picking up the tab for people in the convenience store.

"He was just so kind to everyone," said Precious, who declined to give her family name.