Oscar Pistorius breaks down during his court appearance in
Pretoria. REUTERS/Antonie de Ras
South African 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius, a double
amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics,
broke down in tears after being formally charged in a Pretoria
court with the murder of his girlfriend.
Dressed in a dark suit, the 26-year-old Olympic and
Paralympic superstar stood with head bowed in front of
magistrate Desmond Nair to the 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," 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.
His girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, 30, was found shot
dead in his plush Pretoria home in the early hours of
Thursday (local time), 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."
Early reports of the shooting in the early hours of Thursday
suggested Pistorius may have mistaken Steenkamp for an
intruder, but 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. On
Friday 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.
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 remorse 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 said.
A 9 mm 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
He was held overnight at Pretoria's Boschkop police station
after undergoing medical and forensic examinations, police
said. Police have said they will oppose bail.
"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.
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 home owners 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.