Paralympian Pistorius charged after slaying

The Associated PressFebruary 15, 2013 

PRETORIA, South Africa — 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 “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, 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.”

“We all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady’s parents,” Pistorius’ father, Henke, said.

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 said. “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 was in an altercation with a local coal mining millionaire over a woman. 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 on Twitter, bragging about his score.

“Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!” Pistorius 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.

A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.

Steenkamp, known simply as Reeva, was one of FHM’s (formerly For Him Magazine) 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running.

Pistorius competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa’s 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history when his selection for South Africa’s team was confirmed at the last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

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