JOHANNESBURG (TIP): South African “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, was charged on Thursday with shooting dead his girlfriend at his upscale home in Pretoria. Police said they opened a murder case after a 30-year-old woman was found dead at the Paralympic and Olympic star’s house in the Silverlakes gated complex on the capital’s outskirts.
Pistorius, 26, and his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters, adding witnesses had been interviewed about the early morning incident. “We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place,” Beukes said outside the heavily guarded residential complex.
Police said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene. Beukes said police were aware of previous incidents at the Pistorius house. “I can confirm that there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr Oscar Pistorious, of allegations of a domestic nature,” she said. Pistorius, who uses carbon fibre prosthetic blades to run, is due to appear in a Pretoria court on Friday. “He is doing well but very emotional,” his lawyer Kenny Oldwage said, but gave no further comment.
A sports icon for triumphing over disability to compete with able-bodied athletes at the Olympics, his sponsorship deals, including one with sports apparel group Nike, are thought to be worth $2 million a year.
South Africa’s M-Net cable TV channel said it was pulling adverts featuring Pistorius off air immediately after blanket coverage of the arrest in a country more used to honouring Pistorius as a national hero. “WE ARE ALL DEVASTATED” Steenkamp’s colleagues in the modelling world were distraught. “We are all devastated. Her family is in shock,” her agent, Sarita Tomlinson, tearfully said. “They did have a good relationship.
Nobody actually knows what happened.” Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metre semifinals 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, though he was quick to express regret for the comments.
South Africa has some of the world’s highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius’s complex is surrounded by a three-metre high wall and electric fence.
In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night. Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg’s Talk Radio 702 said the athlete may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.