Oscar Pistorius held after girlfriend shot dead
PRETORIA (AFP) – South African Olympic sprinter Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius was taken into police custody Thursday, his father told AFP, after allegedly shooting dead his model girlfriend having mistaken her for an intruder at his upscale home.
“He is with the police and the matter is in the hands of the authorities,” said Henke Pistorius. “Obviously we are shocked.”
Court officials said the 26-year-old double-amputee Olympian, a national icon in his native South Africa, is expected to appear in court shortly for the killing of model Reeva Steenkamp.
Police confirmed the shooting took place at the 26-year-old’s upscale Pretoria home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.
“A 26-year-old man had been taken into custody for shooting a 30-year-old woman,” police spokesman Katlego Mogale told AFP.
Pistorius is known to have been dating FHM cover girl Steenkamp, who yesterday hinted at plans to surprise the two-time gold medal winner.
“What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay”, she tweeted.
Police spokesman Mogale said “the deceased was shot four times and died on the scene. It is believed that she was the girlfriend of the accused.”
The shooting took place in a house inside an upmarket secure compound in Silverlakes, outside Pretoria.
Crime is a serious problem in South Africa, with many home robberies resulting in fatalities.
Many South Africans keep weapons at home and equip their houses with electric fences and panic buttons which summon heavily armed guards within minutes.
Pistorius has previously spoken of carrying a firearm when faced with a potential threat at home and of visiting a shooting range.
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 9-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.”
The Johannesburg-born athlete — known as “Blade Runner” because of his carbon fibre running blades — made history in 2012 when he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.
He won gold in the 4x100m relay and the 400m individual at the Paralympic Games in London and 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.
He went on to win a silver medal as part of the 4x400m relay team at the 2011 World Championships in South Korean city of Daegu before representing his country at the London Olympics and Paralympics last year.
Off the track, Pistorius is 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.