South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” for his racing prosthetics, has been charged with murder of his model girlfriend, who died of gunshot wounds at his home on Thursday morning.
Police played down reports that the 26-year-old took Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder and shot her dead.
Witnesses and neighbours claim to have heard unusual sounds on Wednesday evening and when the shooting took place, police spokeswoman Denise Beukes said. There had “previously been allegations of a domestic nature at Mr Pistorius's home”, she said.
Steenkamp, a well-known model, was shot four times, in the head and the hand. “It’s a 9mm pistol... licensed to Mr Pistorius,” Beukes said.
The sprinter, who was alone at home, will appear in court on Friday. Police said they would oppose the bail.
Earlier, police said they had launched a murder investigation after a 30-year-old woman was found dead in the upmarket Silver Lakes gated community, where the athlete lives.
Initially, there was speculation that Pistorius may have mistaken Steenkamp, who he had been dating since November, for a burglar and the shooting could have been a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong.
Pistorius's father said his son was sad after the shooting. “I don’t know nothing,” Henke Pistorius told SABC radio news. “They did have a good relationship,” Steen­kamp’s agent Sarita Tomlinson, said. “Nobody actually knows what happened.”
Pistorius, known as Blade Runner because of the carbon-fibre prosthetic blades he wears to race, is one of the world’s best-known Paralympic stars. He was born without fibulas in both legs, which were amputated when he was 11 months. He made history at London 2012 when he became the first double ampu­tee to run in both the Olympics and Paral­ympics. The Johannesburg-born athlete won a legal battle over his blades with the International Association of Athletics Federa­tions in 2008 for the right to compete in able-bodied competition.
While a local channel pulled out an advertising campaign starring Pistorius, Nike refused to comment.