Oscar Pistorius, a South African double-amputee sprinter whose fight to compete against able-bodied athletes took him to the London Games, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend in Pretoria this morning.
Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old model and TV reality star who had spoken out about violence against women, was shot four times at his house just before dawn and died on the scene. The shooting has rocked South Africa, where Pistorius became a national hero running on carbon-fiber prosthetic blades and earning the nickname “Bladerunner.” Pistorius, who was born with no fibula in either leg, was a Paralympic champion who reached the 400-meter semifinal and competed in the 4×400-meter relay in the London Olympics.
Pistorius left a police station after being questioned and a court hearing, originally scheduled for this afternoon, was pushed to Friday. Police told the Associated Press that there “previously [had] been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius” and “allegations of a domestic nature,” adding that Pistorius was in the home, which is in a gated community in a nation known for violence, at the time of the shooting. “There is no other suspect involved,” police spokesperson Brigadier Denise Beukes said. “Yes, there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning. We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”
Although there has been speculation that Steenkamp was mistaken for a burglar or that she was trying to surprise Pistorius for Valentine’s Day, Beukes declined to offer more information. South Africa has an extremely high rate of violent crime and Pistorius’ complex is surrounded by a high wall and electric fence. In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot his 19-year-old daughter to death one night when he mistook her for a robber trying to steal his car. A 9-mm gun was found at Pistorius’s house.
Steenkamp’s publicist, Sarit Tomlinson, confirmed that she was the victim and told the BBC: “She was definitely destined for success. She was a gorgeous girl both inside and out, and also had a brain… she had an incredible entrepreneurial spirit.”
Steenkamp was to appear in a celebrity TV reality show starting this weekend and said she had been named one of the “100 sexiest women in the world two years running” by FHM magazine. She also had a law degree from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, where she grew up.
Her Twitter feed is filled with tweets touting her career, her “boo,” her excitement over the approach of Valentine’s Day and urging women to speak up about rape. Last weekend, she tweeted:
— Reeva Steenkamp (@reevasteenkamp) February 9, 2013
I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals… instagr.am/p/Viq8nNwPRy/
— Reeva Steenkamp (@reevasteenkamp) February 10, 2013
Steenkamp and Pistorius had not been dating long. “It’s been a healthy, fabulous relationship,” Tomlinson told the BBC. Steenkamp told the Sunday Independent last weekend that Pistorius had “impeccable taste” and that “his gifts are always thoughtful.” She was excited for Valentine’s Day and tweeted:
— Reeva Steenkamp (@reevasteenkamp) February 13, 2013
In reply to a follower, she said that Valentine’s Day “should be a day of love for everyone may it be blessed!”
More from the Olympics
Mike Wise: Celebrating an athletic achievement
Sally Jenkins: Pistorius earns his way into the Olympics
Graphic: See how Pistorius runs