Athletics: Olympic superstar Oscar Pistorius wept in court today as prosecutors said they’ll pursue a charge of premeditated murder against him for killing his model girlfriend, meaning the man who once inspired millions could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Pistorius’s family and London-based management issued a statement disputing the murder charge he now faces for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp.
The athlete himself initially appeared solemn and collected in his first court appearance, but later sobbed loud enough for his cries to be heard over the more than 100 spectators gathered for the hearing.
His tears even drew the attention of Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir, who at one point simply said: “Take it easy.”
The double-amputee athlete’s arrest stunned South Africa, which awoke the morning of Valentine’s Day to hear that Steenkamp had been shot to death at Pistorius’s home in a gated community in an eastern suburb of South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. Police said investigators recovered a 9mm pistol from the home.
In Pretoria magistrates’ court today, throngs of photographers, videographers and journalists besieged the brick-walled Courtroom C, where Pistorius appeared. Nasir’s first ruling in the matter focused on the press. He dismissed requests from a private television station and the state broadcaster to air the hearing live.
Nasir also ordered that no photographs be taken while court was in session. That left kneeling photographers less than a meter (three feet) from Pistorius to simply stare at a man some previously photographed sprinting on his famous carbon-fibre blades as he cried uncontrollably. Pistorius’s brother Carl and his father Henke reached out at separate times to comfort him as he sat in the dock.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court he would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius for allegedly killing Steenkamp, a 30-year-old model.
Police said that investigators had conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp’s body, but that results would not be published.
Pistorius entered no plea at the hearing and his family left quickly, without speaking to journalists who followed them outside. In a statement, his family and management questioned the criminal charge the 26-year-old athlete faces. “The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms,” the statement read, without elaborating.
The statement also said Pistorius wanted to “send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva.”