South African police on Thursday charged Olympic amputee sprint star Oscar Pistorius with the Valentine's Day murder of his glamorous model girlfriend, but played down reports she was mistaken for a burglar.
Cops reject Pistorius’ claims
“I can confirm that a suspect has been charged, he has been charged with murder,” lieutenant colonel Katlego Mogale told AFP.
Twenty-six-year-old Pistorius -- known globally as “Blade Runner” because of his carbon fibre prostheses -- will spend the night in jail before appearing in court early on Friday.
He will appear at Pretoria Magistrate's Court to answer charges of killing 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp at his upscale Pretoria home.
The blonde was shot four times in the early hours of Thursday morning and died on the scene. A nine-millimetre pistol was found at the scene.
Police have opposed bail for Pistorius, who is the only suspect in the case.
The sprinter became an international celebrity during last year's London Olympics, where he became the first double-amputee to compete in a Summer Games.
His arrest has rocked South Africa, where he had been considered a national hero.
“Obviously we are shocked,” his father Henke Pistorius told AFP. “He is with the police and the matter is in the hands of the authorities.”
“Our thoughts are with the family of the woman involved in this tragedy,” he said.
Steenkamp, once a FHM cover girl, was described as “the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth.” by Sarit Tomlins of her management agency.
Meanwhile police poured cold water on media reports that she had been mistaken as an intruder.
“We were surprised by allegations that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar,” said police spokeswoman Denise Beukes.
She said there was no sign of forced entry at Pistorius's home. “The premises are fairly secure... This is a fairly secure estate.”
“There's previously been incidents of allegations of domestic disputes at the home of the accused.”
Beukes said the police were talking to neighbours who heard disturbances earlier in the evening and around the time of the shooting.
Those revelations raised questions about a figure who was publicly adored, but led a colourful private life full of model girlfriends, guns and fast cars.
“There were always rumours attracted to Oscar Pistorius, but most of them I just put down to him being a celebrity,” said Kyle Wood, a 25-year-old fellow resident of Silverlakes.
Pistorius has previously spoken of carrying a firearm when faced with a potential threat at home and of visiting a shooting range.
Crime is a major problem in South Africa and many people keep weapons at home.
A year ago he told The New York Times of an incident where he took his gun to go downstairs to check on what turned out to be a false setting off of his security alarm.
He also took the newspaper's reporter to a nearby shooting range with his nine-millimetre handgun after learning that the journalist had never fired a shot.
Asked how frequently he went to the shooting range, Pistorius said: “Just sometimes when I can't sleep.”
Pistorius is also known as an adrenalin junkie, with a love of speed reflected in a passion for motorbikes.
Four years ago he crashed his boat in a river south of Johannesburg, breaking two ribs, an eye socket and his jaw.
He also once owned two white tigers but sold them to a zoo in Canada when they became too big.
The Johannesburg-born athlete won gold in the 4x100m relay and the 400m individual at the Paralympic Games in London.
He was triple gold medallist in the Beijing games in 2008 in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
Pistorius was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the world's 100 most influential people.
“You're not disabled by your disabilities but abled by your abilities,” he told Athlete magazine in a 2011 interview.
He had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old after being born without lower leg bones. But he played sports unhindered while growing up, switching to running after fracturing a knee playing rugby.
At high school, he was so good that his personal fitness coach said she was unaware for six months that he ran on prosthetic legs.
But he was initially banned from competing in the Olympics in Beijing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on the grounds that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.
That decision was later overturned on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), although he ultimately failed to meet the Olympic qualifying standard time.