Olympian Pistorius charged with 'girlfriend's murder'

Published Feb 14, 2013 10:15am

In this Nov. 4, 2012 photo, South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, believed to be his girlfriend, at an awards ceremony, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was taken into custody and was expected to appear in court on February 14, 2013. — AP Photo

PRETORIA: PRETORIA: Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa, a stunning development in the life of a national hero known as the Blade Runner for his high-tech artificial legs.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times in the predawn hours in the home, in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria, police said.

Hours later after undergoing police questioning, Pistorius left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face.

His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until Friday to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.

South Africans were shocked at the killing but police said there was a history of problems.   

The olympic athlete was taken into custody and was expected to appear in court Thursday after a 30-year-old woman who was believed to be his girlfriend was shot dead at his home in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

Police Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told The Associated Press that officers received a call in the early hours of the morning that there had been a shooting at the double-amputee runner's home in a gated housing complex.

Mogale said when police arrived they found paramedics trying to revive the woman, who had been shot an unspecified number of times. Mogale, who was speaking to the AP from the scene, said the woman died at the house. Officers found a 9 mm pistol at Pistorius' house and Mogale said the 26-year-old Pistorius is expected to appear in court later on Thursday.

Police have not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius' alleged girlfriend, told Sky News that Steenkamp had died. Tributes to Steenkamp, a model, poured onto social media sites.

Many South African media outlets had reported that the dead woman was Pistorius' girlfriend Steenkamp and that he may have mistaken her for a burglar and shot her, but police did not clarify the dead woman's relationship to Pistorius. Mogale said the victim's family had not yet identified the body.

It was reported that the woman may have been trying to surprise Pistorius for Valentine's Day and he thought she was an intruder breaking into his home. The shooting prompted discussions on talk radio shows about the country's gun control laws.

Radio 702 talk show host Redi Thlabi discussed accidental shootings, including one in which a father shot his daughter as she tried to sneak out early one morning, mistaking her for an intruder.

''I am just shocked and speechless,'' Thlabi said. ''I wonder if this puts the spotlight on the gun ownership debate. Do you feel safe when you hear such stories?''

Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. He is one of South Africa's and the world's most famous sportsmen.

Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades –f which critics said gave him an unfair advantage – he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.

He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history after being have his selection confirmed on South Africa's team at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee (SASCOC) released a statement later Thursday saying they had been ''inundated'' with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting.

''SASCOC, like the rest of the public, knows no more than what is in the public domain, which is there has been an alleged fatal shooting on the basis of a mistaken identity and an apparent assumption of a burglary,'' the South African Olympic committee said. ''The organization is in no position to comment on the incident other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned.''


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