‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius faces premeditated murder charge

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — In a courtroom, not an Olympic stadium, there was no click-click-click of Oscar Pistorius’ prosthetic limbs. His only sound Friday was loud, uncontrollable sobs as prosecutors charged him with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his model girlfriend.

“Take it easy,” Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir told the Olympic star-turned-murder-defendant as his father, Henke, and his brother, Carl, reached out to touch his shoulder to comfort him.

The 26-year-old Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter who won world acclaim by competing in last summer’s London Olympics, did not speak or enter a plea. He held his head and wept as he heard the charge, which carries a life sentence.

A statement released later by his family and agent said Pistorius disputed the murder charge “in the strongest terms.”

The track star’s arrest in the Valentine’s Day killing of 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech prosthetics and revered for overcoming his disability to compete in the London Games.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius in the slaying of Steenkamp, a leggy blonde model with a law degree who had spoken out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women.

She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius’ upscale home in a gated community in the South African capital of Pretoria. Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9 mm pistol was recovered at the home.

Police said investigators had conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp’s body but the results would not be released.

At the defense request, the chief magistrate delayed a bail hearing until Tuesday for Pistorius, who was ordered held in a police holding cell, rather than transferred to a prison.

In seeking a premeditated murder charge against Pistorius, prosecutors appear to be claiming they have evidence the athlete planned the killing ahead of time, said William Booth, a prominent Cape Town defense lawyer.

Such a serious charge makes it more difficult for Pistorius to successfully apply for bail, Booth said, though it could also be a challenge to get a conviction.

“It’s quite difficult to prove that in a situation where there isn’t a witness,” the defense lawyer said. “If I just plan it in my mind and I arrive at somebody’s house and there’s no witnesses and I shoot the person, it’s really tough for the prosecution to show that planning.”

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