Oscar Pistorius' model girlfriend slain in South Africa
February 15, 2013 10:00 AM
Waldo Swiegers/Getty Images
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee, stands with his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius wins gold in the men's 400-meter T44 final at the 2012 Paralympics, in London on Sept. 8, 2012.
By Jon Gambrell and Gerald Imray Associated Press
PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter dubbed the Blade Runner, was charged Thursday in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend at his upscale home in South Africa, a shocking twist to one of the feel-good stories of last summer's Olympics.
Mr. Pistorius buried his face in the hood of his workout jacket as officers escorted him from a police station after his arrest in the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old model who had spoken out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women.
Police said she was shot four times in the pre-dawn hours at Mr. Pistorius' villa in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Mr. Pistorius on a murder charge.
What sparked the shooting remained unclear, but police said they had received calls in the past about domestic altercations at the home of the 26-year-old athlete, who has spoken publicly about his love of firearms. A police spokeswoman, Brigadier Denise Beukes, said the incidents included "allegations of a domestic nature. I'm not going to elaborate on it, but there have been incidents," she said, adding that Mr. Pistorius was home at the time of Ms. Steenkamp's death, and "there is no other suspect involved."
Mr. Pistorius made history in the London Games when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and became an international star.
Thursday, companies quickly removed billboards and advertising featuring Mr. Pistorius, a national hero in South Africa who also inspired fans worldwide with the image of his high-tech carbon-fiber blades whipping through the air.
Kenny Oldwage, Mr. Pistorius' lawyer, told reporters that the athlete was "emotional" after his arrest, "but he is keeping up." He said he planned to seek bail for Mr. Pistorius at a preliminary hearing today.
In February 2009, Mr. Pistorius crashed a speedboat on South Africa's Vaal River, breaking his nose, jaw and several ribs, and damaging an eye socket. He required 180 stitches to his face. Witnesses said he had been drinking, and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they did not do blood tests.
In November, Mr. Pistorius was involved in an altercation over a woman with a local coal mining millionaire, South African media reported. The two men involved the South African Police Service's elite Hawks investigative unit before settling the matter.
Linked to a number of women by the South African media, Mr. Pistorius was first seen publicly with Ms. Steenkamp in November. For two years running, she was named one of the world's 100 Sexiest Women by the men's magazine FHM. She also appeared in international and South African ads and was a celebrity contestant on "Tropika Island of Treasure," a South African reality show filmed in Jamaica.
While known for her bikini-clad, vamping photo spreads, Ms. Steenkamp had a law degree and regularly tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape.
Police have not publicly named Ms. Steenkamp as the victim, saying only that a 30-year-old woman was killed. But Ms. Steenkamp's publicist confirmed in a statement that the model had died. "Everyone is simply devastated," said publicist Sarit Tomlinson.
Police arrived at Mr. Pistorius' home after 3 a.m., and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive Ms. Steenkamp, police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said. Officers later took Mr. Pistorius to a hospital, so doctors could collect samples for DNA testing and check his blood alcohol content.
Mr. Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, and campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. He was initially banned because of his carbon fiber blades -- which critics said gave him an unfair advantage -- before being cleared by sport's highest court in 2008. He was a last-minute selection to South Africa's Olympic team, competing in the 400 meters and the 4x400 relay. He later retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters.