Saturday, February 16, 2013

'Blade Runner' accused of 'premeditated' murder

After being arrested and charged with murdering his girlfriend, Olympian Oscar Pistorius cried during his first court appearance Friday. Police say Reeva Steenkamp was shot four times with a pistol that is registered to Pistorius, and Pistorius' agent released a statement saying the murder is 'disputed in the strongest terms.' NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

By Cecile Antonie, Rohit Kachroo and Ian Johnston, NBC News

Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius sobbed as he appeared in a South African court Friday and was accused of the "premeditated" murder of his girlfriend.

The sprinter -- nicknamed "Blade Runner" because he races wearing carbon-fiber prosthetic blades after he was born without a fibula in both legs ? is accused of?killing model Reeva Steenkamp at his home in a Pretoria suburb early Thursday.

Pistorius disputes the accusations in "the strongest terms," according to a statement issued following the court appearance which said the runner sent "his deepest sympathies" to Steenkamp's family.

South African police said Thursday that Pistorius and Steenkamp, 30, were the only people in the house at the time of the shooting.

Oscar Pistorius, the superstar athlete who became the first double amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympics, is the sole suspect in the murder of law school graduate and famous South African model Reeva Steenkamp. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Pistorius, 26, arrived at the court about two hours before the hearing that began at about 4:30 a.m. ET Friday.

As the hearing started, Pistorius kept his head down, cried and held his hands to his face. At times, he appeared confused.

"Take it easy. Come, take a seat," Reuters quoted Magistrate Desmond Nair as telling him.

A defense lawyer referred to his client?s ?traumatised state of mind.?

Several of Pistorius? family members were in the courtroom and also appeared emotional; one seemed distraught and others wept.

Prosecutors alleged the Olympic runner had committed "premeditated murder" and he was formally charged.

Pistorius was remanded in custody pending a bail hearing next week. An application by the media for the proceedings to be broadcast was rejected at the start of the hearing.

After the hearing, a statement issued by Pistorius' agent said: "The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms." It added:

"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."

Citing a neighbor, the Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper?reported Friday that Pistorius shot his girlfriend four times through a bathroom door. NBC News could not independently verify the report, which was translated by Reuters.

Numerous media outlets reported Thursday that Pistorius may have mistaken the woman for an intruder, but police said neighbors had heard noises before the shots and that there had been previous "domestic" incidents at the house.

The athlete who rose to fame in London last summer as the first amputee runner in the Olympics has reportedly been arrested by South African police after his girlfriend was shot and killed in his home. NBC's Rohit Kachroo reports and NBC sports analyst Ato Boldon talks about the case, calling it an "absolute shock."

'Charming, great guy'
The couple had been dating for several months, and??seemed happy,? Steenkamp?s publicist Sarit Tomlinson told TODAY on Thursday. There was no sign of discord between the two, she said.

Tomlinson said that Pistorius was a ?charming, great guy.?

Read more on this story from NBC Sports

According to her Facebook page, Steenkamp was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and raised in Port Elizabeth.

She?earned a law degree at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University before moving to Johannesburg and earning a job as the South African face of cosmetics maker Avon.

Greg Stokell, headmaster of St. Dominic?s Priory school in Port Elizabeth, told South Africa's The Times newspaper that Steenkamp was ?a vibrant, friendly, diligent, and motivated student who was popular with and respected by staff and peers alike.?

From an early age, "Reeva had the full support of her parents who encouraged her to maximize her strengths and abilities to achieve her dreams,? Stokell told the paper. ?She set high goals for herself in everything she did and she consistently converted opportunities into success.?

Phill Magakoe / Pretoria News via AP

A police officer holds a gun that was allegedly used in the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend.

Steenkamp was featured in men?s magazine FHM in December 2011, and named one of the publication?s 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years in a row.

Pistorius battled for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes and was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics.

He qualified for the 400-meter semi-finals and 4 x 400-meter final at the London 2012 Summer Games.

His website highlighted that Pistorius ran in 11 races during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralymics and returned home with "two Paralympic gold medals, Paralympic silver, two world records, a Paralympic record, an Olympic individual semi-final and an Olympic final."

NBC's John Newland, Jason Cumming and Matthew DeLuca, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pistorius, a double amputee born without fibulas in his legs, has trained hard to participate in the Olympics despite having to wear prosthetic legs. NBC's Mary Carillo reports.


Sporting world shocked by charges against inspirational Pistorius

Pistorius lived out dream by running at Olympics

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