The double-amputee Olympic athlete and Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius appeared in a South African court for a bail hearing, as he faces murder charges for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The incident occurred in Pretoria yesterday, and the charge sheet stated that he "unlawfully and intentionally shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp." However, Pistorius's family and management insist "the alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms." They also declared, "Our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family—regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy."
Initially it was reported that Pistorius, arguably South Africa's highest profile athlete, had mistaken his 30-year-old girlfriend for an intruder (there's a high rate of violent crime there and a widespread fear about home invasions). However, the Mail & Guardian reports, "Police had told the M&G that witnesses, including neighbours, had confirmed that they had heard loud voices and shouting on the night and that this was followed later that night by gun-shots." Steenkamp was apparently shot four times, in the head, chest, hand and pelvis. (It's also been reported that she was shot through a bathroom door.)
At the bail hearing, Pistorius' legal team argued against recording in the court room, noting that he was in an "extremely traumatised state of mind". He was heard and seen sobbing in his hands.
An ex-girlfriend suggested that Pistorius was not as squeaky clean as he seemed and police also intimated there had been previous calls about domestic incidents at his home. But another ex said, "I have dated Oscar on and off for 5 YEARS, NOT ONCE has he EVER lifted a finger to me or made me fear for my life."
Pistorius, who was born without fibula bones but overcame that to become a top sprinter with his carbon blades, was surrounded by guns. A NY Times Magazine writer was invited to shoot at a range with Pistorius. Michael Sokolove said that Pistorius was impressed with his amateur technique, telling him, "'You should do this more,' he said. 'If you practised, I think you could be pretty deadly.' I asked him how often he came to the range. 'Just sometimes when I can't sleep,' he said."
A shop assistant told the Mail & Guardian that Steenkamp, a model and law school graduate, had come in before she died:
She was there to buy "Valentine's Day wrapping paper", according to the shop assistant who helped Steenkamp. The assistant, who asked not to be named, said that the blonde model appeared happy and in love. "She was smiling and laughing when she arrived," said the assistant. "She walked out smiling, too ... I offered to wrap the gift for her. It was a photo frame and four photographs of the two of them [Pistorius and Steenkamp]. I told her that it's good for women to give Valentine's Day gifts instead of expecting presents from their boyfriends. She agreed, and added: 'This is a surprise for him. He loves surprises.'"