PRETORIA, South Africa (CBSNewYork/AP) — Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa, a stunning development in the life of a national hero known as the “Blade Runner” for his high-tech artificial legs.
Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times in the predawn hours in the home, in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria, police said.
Hours later after undergoing police questioning, Pistorius left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face. His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until Friday to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.
There were reports Steenkamp made a surprise visit to Pistorius and he thought she was an intruder, but police believe the incident resulted from domestic trouble, CBS 2’s Chris Wragge.
A court hearing Thursday afternoon was postponed until Friday.
“The reason he did not appear today is because the police are still busy with preliminary investigations,” said Medupe Simasiku, a prosecuting authority official.
South Africans were shocked at the killing but police said there was a history of problems.
There have “previously been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius,” said police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and “there is no other suspect involved.”
“Yes there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning,” Beukes told reporters outside the gated complex where Pistorius lived. “We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”
Pistorius’ father, Henke, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, only saying “we all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady’s parents.”
Pistorius’ agent Peet van Zyl and coach Ampie Louw couldn’t be reached while Pistorius’ own cellphone went straight to an answerphone service.
Pistorius’ former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hopes it was “just a tragic accident.” Gianni said he believed that Pistorius had been dating Steenkamp for “a few months.”
“No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive,” Giannini told the AP in Italy. “Whenever he was tired or nervous he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent.”
Pistorius owned guns and tweeted a photo of himself at a shooting range in November 2011, bragging about his score.
“Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!” he tweeted.
Paolo Urbani, the mayor of the Italian town of Gemona where Pistorius had a training base and prepared for the London Olympics from said he is shocked as Pistorius was “a delightful person.”
“The news shocked not only me personally but also the whole of Gemona and the region,” Urbani said. “It come(s) as a huge shock to everyone who knew him. I was woken up this morning by a phone call from his general manager, who called me to let me know so that I didn’t find out about it from the news.”
Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police.
“The SA Police Service were just as surprised this morning to hear on the radio that allegations had been made that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar,” Beukes said. “We were very surprised and those allegations did not come from us.”