15 Feb 2013

Pistorius disputes murder charge in ‘strongest terms’

Oscar Pistorius breaks down in tears as he appears in court charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The Paralympic star disputes the charge “in the strongest possible terms”.

In court, prosecutors said they will be pursuing a charge of premeditated murder against the Paralympics star following the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said on Friday in court that Oscar Pistorius was facing the more serious charge of premeditated murder, upgraded from murder.

Oscar Pistorius broke down in tears as he appeared in court for the first time. The gold-medal winning Paralympian sat with his head bowed in front of magistrates, having been driven through a media frenzy to get to the Pretoria magistrates court.

When his murder charge was read out, the record-breaking athlete began sobbing, covering his face with his hands.

‘Deepest symapthies’

After the hearing a statement was delivered by his agent, on behalf of Pistorius and his family. The statement read: “Oscar Pistorius has made history as an Olympic and Paralympic sportsman and has been an inspiration to others the world over.

“He 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.

“We will endeavour to issue other statements as matters develop but in these circumstances I am sure you appreciate it is very difficult to answer any more specific questions.”

Earlier, dressed in a grey suit and blue tie, with a dark jacket hiding his face, the gold medal winning Paralympian left his jail cell in the morning to head for his hearing. As he arrived at the court he hid his face behind a notepad.

Read more on South Africa and gun violence

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir was presiding over the hearing, which began two hours late as Pistorius’s lawyers objected to a media scrum outside the court.

At the hearing a bail application by Pistorius, which will be opposed by prosecutors, was delayed until Tuesday or Wednesday. Pistorius will remain in jail until the hearing.

Pistorius’ father, Henke, was in the court as was his brother Carl, sister Aimee and other supporters.

Police said Friday an autopsy on the body of the victim was taking place. Lt Col Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published. On Thursday they confirmed Steenkamp was shot in the head and upper body four times.

South African newspaper the Beeld was on Friday morning reporting that the model was shot through the bathroom door at Pistorius’s luxury home.

Murder charge

The 26-year-old athlete faces a charge of murder following the death of Steenkamp, 30, at his home in a gated Pretoria estate in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Following the death, South African media speculated that Steenkamp, a well known model in South Africa, may have been trying to surprise Pistorius for Valentine’s day when he mistook her for a burglar.

However, a police spokeswoman said that she was “very surprised” by the claim, and that the suggestion had not come from the police.

Brigadier Denise Beukes also told reporters that there had been previous incidents “of a domestic nature” at the house. A 9mm pistol was recovered from the house.

Pistorius had been due to appear in court on Thursday, but the hearing was delayed so that forensic officers could finish their preliminary investigations.

Speech to students which Reeva Steenkamp never made 
Before her death, Reeva Steenkamp was due to give a motivational speech on Valentine's day to a group of students in Johannesburg in which she revealed she had once been in an abusive relationship.

The model's notes from the speech suggest she was due to tell students at Sandown High School to value themselves rather than letting the opinions of other people get them down.

"Be brave. Always see the positive. Make your voice heard," Ms Steenkamp was due to say, as she also spoke about overcoming the difficulties in her own life, such as breaking her back at university while she was also in an abusive relationship.

Her notes read: "I was in an abusive relationship at the same time (his mother used to abuse him) and all together these factors encouraged my move to Jozi [Johannesburg]...Being loved by others, although an amazing feeling to have the appreciation of others, does not define your place in the world. Accept who you are."