Olympian Pistorius charged with girlfriend's murder
Thursday, February 14, 2013
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — 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 house, 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 today 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 while Pistorius captured the nation’s attention with his Olympic quest, police said there was a recent history of problems involving him. Police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes said the incidents included “allegations of a domestic nature.”
“I’m not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents (at Pistorius’ home),” Beukes said. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and “there is no other suspect involved.”
Neither Pistorius’ agent Peet van Zyl nor coach Ampie Louw could be reached while Pistorius’ own cellphone went straight to voicemail.
Pistorius’ former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hopes it was “just a tragic accident.” Giannini said he believed that Pistorius had been dating Steenkamp for “a few months.”
“No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive,” Giannini told the AP in Italy. “Whenever he was tired or nervous he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent.”
Yet Pistorius had troubles in his personal life. In February 2009, he crashed a speed boat he was piloting on South Africa’s Vaal River. Witnesses said he had been drinking before the crash and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they acknowledged at the time they hadn’t conducted a blood test on the athlete. Pistorius broke his nose, jaw and several ribs in the crash, as well as damaged his eye socket and required some 180 stitches to his face.
In November, Pistorius also found himself in an altercation with a local coal mining millionaire over a woman, South African media reported. Eventually, the two men involved the South African Police Service’s elite Hawks investigative unit before settling the matter.
Pistorius owned firearms and posted a photograph of himself at a shooting range in November 2011 to the social media website Twitter, bragging about his score.
“Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!” he tweeted.
Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police. Several local media outlets initially reported that the shooting may have been accidental.
Capacity Relations, a talent management firm, earlier named model Steenkamp as the victim of the shooting. Police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told the AP that officers received a call around 3 a.m. after the shooting.
A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.
Police have still not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Steenkamp confirmed in a statement that the model was dead.
“We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away,” Steenkamp’s publicist Sarit Tomlinson said. “Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time. Everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed.”
Tomlinson said Steenkamp, known simply as Reeva, was one of FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running, appeared in countless international and national advertisements and was one of the celebrity contestants on the reality show “Tropika Island of Treasure,” filmed in Jamaica.
She and Pistorius were first seen publicly together in November at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Later, she began mentioning the athlete in public messages on Twitter.
Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, propelling him to the status of an athletics superstar.
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