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Africa

Pistorius weeps as he appears in court

Video by Josh Vardey

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-16

South African Paralympic champion Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius wept in a Pretoria court on Friday, after being charged with the Valentine’s Day murder of his model girlfriend who was shot four times with a gun registered in his name.

Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius openly wept as he appeared in court Friday, as prosecutors said they would pursue a "premeditated murder" charge over the death of his girlfriend.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show participant, was shot and killed at Pistorius' upmarket home in an eastern suburb of the South African capital in the predawn hours of Thursday, sending shockwaves across South Africa.

Pistorius solemnly entered court in a gray suit and blue tie. He later broke down in tears. The magistrate delayed Pistorius' bail hearing until next Tuesday and Wednesday and ruled that the 26-year-old Pistorius would be held at a Pretoria police station until then.

Pistorius' father, Henke, was in the court as was his brother Carl, sister Aimee and other supporters of the 26-year-old double-amputee athlete.

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 Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.

Media packed court

More than 100 people packed into Courtroom C at Pretoria Magistrate's Court, including dozens of photographers and videographers.

The Paralympian and Olympic athlete was earlier seen leaving a police station, his jacket completely covering his head as he got into a police vehicle. He was holding what appeared to be a white handkerchief in one hand as he was led by officers to a police van outside the Boschkop Police Station in eastern Pretoria, where he had been questioned on Thursday and had spent the night in custody.

After receiving a call about the shooting at around 3am, police arrived at the athlete’s home where they found a 9mm pistol. Police said the victim was shot four times at Pistorius' villa in a gated community and promptly arrested Pistorius on a murder charge. The athlete and his girlfriend Steenkamp had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting.

South African media reported on Friday that the Paralympic and Olympic track shot his girlfriend four times through a bathroom door at his Pretoria home. She was hit in the head, chest, pelvis and hand, the Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper said on its website.

Raises questions

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Cape Town, Ayesha Ismail, said the case raises questions over the right to own a gun and the high levels of violent crime in South Africa, “so much so that people are sleeping with guns under their pillows,” she said.

Many South Africans have expressed sympathy for the athlete, Ayesha added, although the incident has stirred up race issues. People have taken to social media and are asking “is it because he is white that people are being more sympathetic, saying it was a Valentine’s Day surprise that went horribly wrong?” she added.

The world famous athlete was previously 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 the charges were later dropped.

"Blade Runner"

Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fiber prosthetic blades after he was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics.

Nicknamed “Blade Runner,” Pistorius famously reached the 400m semi-finals at the London 2012 Olympics. At the Paralympics he won silver in the T44 200m, gold in the 4x100 relay and gold in the T44 400m. In 2008 he won a legal battle for the right to compete in able-bodied competitions.

Steenkamp was a top South African model, television star and law graduate, and had been dating Pistorius for a year. One of her last Twitter postings indicated that she was looking forward to spending Valentine's Day with him. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.

(FRANCE24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-02-15

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