Pistorius to fight murder charge

  • Last Updated: February 15 2013, 16:22 GMT

Oscar Pistorius will contest the charge that he murdered his girlfriend in a premeditated act in the "strongest terms", according to his family and management.

Oscar Pistorius: Charged with murdering his girlfriend
Oscar Pistorius: Charged with murdering his girlfriend

Pistorius broke down in tears in a Pretoria court on Friday as the prosecution made clear they would pursue the murder case.

The 26-year-old Paralympic athlete's girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead at the luxury home where Pistorius lives, on the Silver Lakes Golf Estate, in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Describing the case as a "terrible, terrible tragedy", the family of Pistorius underlined his intentions but stressed their first thoughts were with family and friends of Steenkamp.

A statement from the family and the athlete's management read: "Firstly, and most importantly, all our thoughts today must be with the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp.

"Oscar Pistorius has appeared in court here in Pretoria this morning formally charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms.

"These are now live and active legal proceedings which must be allowed to take their course through the process of proper investigation by the police, evidence-gathering and through the local South African judicial system."

The statement added: "He [Pistorius] has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva.

"He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received - but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family - regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy."

A bail hearing was delayed until Tuesday and Pistorius will be held at a Pretoria police station, rather than prison, until that time. Police have already said they will oppose any bail application from Pistorius.

Pistorius, who won two gold medals and a silver at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, was met by a media frenzy as he arrived at the packed court house dressed in a sober grey suit and blue tie.

Earlier, he attempted to obscure his identity, covering his face with a jacket and a note pad as he was driven into the precincts.

The track superstar was supported by his father Henke, brother Carl and sister Aimee in court.

The hearing came after a two-hour delay while the athlete's lawyers objected to the scrum of local and international reporters who turned out to witness his appearance.

His arrest yesterday triggered shock across the globe and prompted rumours that he may have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder in what could have been a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong.

But police swiftly distanced themselves from being the source of that suggestion and said there had been previous incidents of a "domestic nature" at Pistorius' property.

Ms Steenkamp's body was discovered at around 3am, after neighbours reported hearing screams and gunshots coming from the sprinter's home.

According to the Beeld newspaper, the model was shot four times through a bathroom door.

Officers said she was shot in the head and upper body. They recovered a 9mm pistol from the scene.

Pistorius made history with his appearance at the London Olympics, running in the 400 metres and the 4x400m relay.

The track star was born without fibulas and underwent below-the-knee amputations at 11 months old.

He had to win a legal battle over the use of his blades with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 2008 for the right to compete in able-bodied competition.

Pistorius' father said his son was "sad" following the shooting. Mr Pistorius told SABC radio news: "I don't know the facts. If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be Oscar. He's sad at the moment."

South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel pulled adverts featuring the athlete off air immediately after his arrest.

Sports apparel group Nike, along with most of his sponsors, said it would not make any decisions until the police investigation was completed.

His sponsorship deals - with firms including BT, sunglasses manufacturer Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler - are thought to be worth as much as £1.3million a year.