Friday 28 November 2014

Oscar Pistorius murder charge: girlfriend shot in head with his gun

Published 14/02/2013 | 07:45

Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius en route to appear in court charged with murder
Oscar Pistorius, centre with hood up, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend
South African paralympic star Oscar Pistorius is being questioned by South African police for shooting his girlfriend, domestic media said
Reeva Steenkamp

REEVA Steenkamp, the girlfriend of ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius, died on Valentine's Day after being shot four times in the head and hand by a gun registered to the Paralympic sprinter, police have revealed.

It had initially been suggested that the model may have been mistaken for a burglar at his property in the Silver Lakes Golf Estate in Pretoria.

But police have since said they "very surprised" by the burglar suggestion, saying: "These allegations did not come from us".

They have since added that the 9mm pistol used in the shooting is licensed to Pistorius.

The double amputee – known as Blade Runner and one of the biggest names in world athletics – was charged with murder earlier today. 

Police spokesperson Denise Beukes told reporters that the athlete would first undergo medical examinations, including blood-alcohol tests and fingernail DNA scrapes, at a nearby hospital.

“There will be no special treatment whatsoever,” she added.

Pistorius and Steenkamp had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, Beukes said, adding witnesses had been interviewed about the early morning incident.

"We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," Beukes said outside the heavily guarded residential complex.

Beukes said police were aware of previous incidents at the Pistorius house. "I can confirm that there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr Oscar Pistorious, of allegations of domestic nature," she said.

She said there was no signs of forced entry at the address.

And asked about speculation the victim may have been mistaken for a burglar, she said: "The South African Police Service were just as surprised this morning to hear over the radio that allegations had been made that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar.

"We were very surprised and those allegations did not come from us."

Pistorius, who uses carbon fibre prosthetic blades to run, is due to appear in a Pretoria court tomorrow.

Police will oppose any bail application tomorrow and said at this stage there is no other suspect involved.

"He is doing well but very emotional," his lawyer Kenny Oldwage told SABC TV, but gave no further comment.

A sports icon for triumphing over disabilities to compete with able-bodied athletes at the Olympics, his sponsorship deals, including one with sports apparel group Nike, are thought to be worth $2 million a year.

South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel said it was pulling adverts featuring Pistorius off air immediately.

Steenkamp's colleagues in the modelling world were distraught. "We are all devastated. Her family is in shock," her agent, Sarita Tomlinson, tearfully told Reuters. "They did have a good relationship. Nobody actually knows what happened."

Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metre 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, though he 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' complex is surrounded by a three-metre high wall and electric fence.

In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.

Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said the athlete may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Recent media interviews with Pistorius revealed he kept an assortment of weapons in his home.

"Cricket and baseball bats lay behind the door, a pistol by his bed and a machine gun by a window," one paper wrote in a profile published last year.

Pistorius was arrested in 2009 for assault after slamming a door on a woman and spent a night in police custody. Family and friends said it was just an accident and charges were dropped.

"He's very quiet and very modest but he's a big party animal," one of South Africa's top runners, who knows Pistorius, told Reuters. "I've been with him when we've been smashed and he never seemed violent," said the runner, who declined to be named.

Steenkamp, a regular on the South African social scene, was reported to have been dating Pistorius for several months.

In the social pages of last weekend's South African Sunday Independent she described him as having "impeccable" taste. "His gifts are always thoughtful," she was quoted as saying.

Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to Valentine's Day on Thursday. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.

Pistorius was tpdau being processed through the police system. "At this stage he is on his way to a district surgeon for medical examination," the police brigadier said.

"When a person has been accused of a crime like murder they look at things like testing under the finger nails, taking a blood alcohol sample and all kinds of other test that are done. They are standard medical tests," Beukes said.

Pistorius is also sponsored by British telecoms firm BT , sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler.

"We are shocked by this terrible, tragic news. We await the outcome of the South African police investigation," a BT spokeswoman said before Pistorius was charged.

A Nike spokesman in London said before hearing of the murder charge that the company was "saddened by the news, but we have no further comment to make at this stage".

Pistorius also has a sponsorship deal with Icelandic prosthetics manufacturer Ossur.

"I can only say that our thoughts and prayers are with Oscar and the families involved in the tragedy," Ossur CEO Jon Sigurdsson told Reuters. "It is completely premature to discuss or speculate on our business relationship with him."

Neighbours expressed shock at the arrest of a "good guy".

"It is difficult to imagine an intruder entering this community, but we live in a country where intruders can get in wherever they want to," said one Silverlakes resident, who did not want to be named.

"Oscar is a good guy, an upstanding neighbour, and if he is innocent I feel for this guy deeply," he said.

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