OLYMPIC athlete Oscar Pistorius is "numb with shock, as well as grief" after the shooting death of his model girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner's uncle said today, as his family "strongly refutes" that he planned to kill her.
Arnold Pistorius spoke to reporters about his nephew's arrest for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot four times on the morning of Valentine's Day, from his three-storey home in the eastern suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.
The statement, the first directly made in person by Pistorius' family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.
"After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder," Arnold Pistorius said.
"We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state's own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder."
The track star's arrest for the killing of 29-year-old Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero dubbed the ‘Blade Runner’ for his high-tech prosthetics and revered for overcoming his disability to compete in the London Games.
She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius' upmarket home in a gated community in Pretoria.
Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9mm pistol was recovered at the home.
Pistorius remains at a police station pending a bail hearing Tuesday.
Arnold Pistorius did not discuss the circumstances of the shooting, but said that his nephew and Steenkamp had become very close since they started dating in November.
"Our entire family is devastated, we are in a state of total shock - first about the tragic death of Reeva, who we had all got to know well and care for deeply over the last few months," he said.
It continued: "All of us saw at first hand how close she had become to Oscar during that time and how happy they were. They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time.
"We are all grieving for Reeva, her family and her friends. Oscar – as you can imagine – is also numb with shock as well as grief."
In a report in the South African paper ‘Beeld’, it is claimed security guards who heard the shots and rushed to the house saw the world-famous athlete running down the stairs with Ms Steenkamp in his arms.
She had been shot four times, in the head, chest and hand, through the bathroom door with a gun registered to Pistorius.
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".
According to the ‘Beeld’ report, police apparently believe that Miss Steenkamp was sitting on the lavatory when she was shot.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Katlego Mogale refused to confirm or deny the claims when questioned by Beeld, saying they formed part of the police investigation.
Annie Kruger, Pistorius' cousin, said the family were all extremely worried about him.
"We are all very sad for him, the whole thing is terribly bad for him," she told Beeld. "We want the right things to happen, but it feels like people are a little too hastily."