A bloodied cricket bat has reportedly been found by police at the home of Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete charged with murdering his model girlfriend.
Detectives believe the bat was either used by the 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic sprinter to attack Reeva Steenkamp (29), before shooting her dead at his home on Valentine's Day, or by her to defend herself, according to reports.
A port-mortem has been carried out on Ms Steenkamp's body but the results are not known. According to local press, it found that she had a "crushed" skull.
"There was lots of blood on the bat," one source said.
If the blood is Ms Steenkamp's, it would strengthen the prosecution case for premeditated murder, sources said. If it came from Pistorius, police would argue that the model used it to defend herself.
His family say he shot at Ms Steenkamp through the bathroom door of his home believing her to be an intruder.
But 'City Press' claims police found a bullet cartridge in the bedroom and are looking at whether he chased his girlfriend and fired a shot before she locked herself in the bathroom.
The discovery of the cricket bat has been cited as "the central piece of evidence" that the disabled athlete murdered his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine's Day.
Pistorius (26), who faces a bail hearing tomorrow, told an interviewer last year that he kept a cricket bat behind his door, along with a pistol by his bedside and a machine gun under his window.
His grandmother, Gertie Pistorius (89), claimed yesterday that the shooting of Miss Steenkamp was "a mistake anybody can make".
His father, Henke Pistorius (59) said: "Until it's proved otherwise, I can't believe that this was anything but a tragic accident." He added that he believed his son acted out of a sportsman's "instinct".
South Africa's 'City Press' newspaper cited three sources close to the investigation who said they believe that the evidence was now "rock solid" that Pistorius deliberately murdered his girlfriend.
They claimed that police found one bullet casing in the sprinter's bedroom. Detectives have reportedly surmised that he chased his girlfriend and fired the first shot before she locked herself in the bathroom and he then fired three more through the door.
A post-mortem on the body of the 29-year-old model revealed that she suffered a fractured skull, the newspaper reported.
A close friend of Pistorius told how the athlete called him moments after Miss Steenkamp was shot and told him: "My baba, I've killed my baba. God take me away."
Justin Divaris said: "Oscar called me at 3.55am saying that Reeva had been shot. I said to him, 'What are you talking about? I don't understand you.' He then repeated himself – 'There has been a terrible accident, I shot Reeva.'"
According to 'City Press', Pistorius also called his father and sister and asked them to go to the house at about 3.20am on Thursday.
When they arrived, it said, he was carrying his girlfriend's body down the stairs – her head and arms were "dangling", it added.
Ms Steenkamp was said to be still breathing as security guards, neighbours and Mr Pistorius's family gathered, and he tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She was declared dead when police and paramedics arrived.
According to a source cited by 'City Press', Ms Steenkamp was wearing a nightdress, an overnight bag was found at the house and her iPad was on the bedroom floor.
"It was clear that both of them had slept in the bed," the source added.
The holster of a 9mm pistol similar to the weapon recovered by police was found on one side of the bed, the paper said.
Pistorius spent the weekend in a police cell in Pretoria and was visited yesterday by his brother Carl and sister Aimee. A police source told 'City Press' he was frequently in tears. (© Daily Telegraph, London)