‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius Charged with Murder of Model Girlfriend

A 30-year-old woman is found shot to death in the home belonging to South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, police said

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Lucky Nxumalo / City Press / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at the Feather Awards on Nov.4, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 at 8:10 a.m. EST

The extraordinary life of Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee who ran sprint in the Olympics despite having no legs, appeared to have taken a tragic and bewildering turn Thursday when the police confirmed that he was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine’s Day. A spokesman for Gauteng police, Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale, said a 26-year-old man had been arrested after a woman was found dead at a house on the private Silverlakes housing estate, where Pistorius lived, in the South African capital Pretoria. “Paramedics declared the woman dead at the scene and police proceeded with their investigation,” said Mogale. “The woman sustained wounds to her head and the upper body.” The AP reported that the victim was shot four times.

(PHOTOS: Oscar Pistorius On and Off the Track)

A 9mm pistol was recovered from the scene. Mogale confirmed neither the identity of the arrested man or the dead woman, but said of the arrested man to the Associated Press: “We can’t comment on his emotional well-being, but he is traumatized after losing someone close to him.” South African media quoted other police sources as saying Pistorius had shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old swimsuit and lingerie model (Capacity Relations, the agency that represents her, said she was the victim of the shooting). Some reports added Pistorius told police he mistook her for a burglar. Pistorius was to appear at a preliminary hearing at Pretoria magistrates court Thursday, where formal charges will be laid, but that court appearance has now been postponed until Friday. Police in South Africa don’t name suspects in crimes until they’ve appeared in court but police spokesperson Brigadier Denise Beukes said Pistorius was at his home and “there is no other suspect involved.” Beukes also said that there have “previously been allegations of a domestic nature at Mr Pistorius’s home,” and “The SA Police Service were just as surprised this morning to hear on the radio that allegations had been made that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar. We were very surprised and those allegations did not come from us.”

The shooting is a double tragedy for South Africa. Steenkamp was a rising star in the country, appearing as a cover girl for FHM magazine and on a new reality TV travel show. On Thursday her Twitter feed was full of condolence messages. One of Steenkamp’s own, dated Feb. 10 and referring to an ongoing South African campaign against violence against women was also being widely circulated. “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individual,” she wrote.

(MORE: The Blade Runner Makes Olympic History )

It is Pistorius, however, who is a truly global star. Born without a fibula in either leg, both limbs were amputated below the knee before he was one. Using prosthetics, Pistorius nevertheless went on to play sports at high school, particularly rugby, before a knee injury left him on the sidelines. Advised to run to aid his recovery, Pistorius began clocking astonishing times, and was soon beating the then Paralympian world records. Running on carbon fiber blades which mimicked the action of a cheetah, he went on to compete in both the Paralympics and the able-bodied Olympics. From both events at the 2012 Games in London, he collected two Paralympic gold medals and two silvers, broke two world records and one Paralympic record, and competed in an Olympic final and semi-final. Last year, TIME’s sister publication, People, also named him one of the “sexiest men alive.”

A perfectionist, Pistorius credited his drive to his mother, who died when he was 15. The date she passed away is tattooed on his right arm. On his left shoulder are the words: “I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” And Pistorius’ life, it is true, has been filled with more purpose than most. As someone who demanded to be treated like any other athlete and, like any athlete, who wanted to perform at the highest level, he has been an unprecedented champion for equality and disabled rights. As he climbed the ranks of both disabled and able-bodied sports, while gracing magazine covers and billboards around the world, he became an irresistible argument for changing perceptions of the disabled.

(PHOTOS: Oscar Pistorius’s Historic Race)

Despite his global fame, Pistorius never expressed a desire to leave his native South Africa, where violent crime is endemic. A Daily Mail article in 2011 noted that Pistorius kept a machine gun in his bedroom and a pistol by his bedside table. Asked about his chief ambition by the Financial Times the following year, he replied: “I’d like to have a career without regrets. No, what I really mean is that I’d like a life without regrets. I’d like a life in which I made the most of my God-given talents and died without regrets.” That, sadly, now looks like one goal that will be forever out of reach.

39 comments
Vijay Banga
Vijay Banga

while reports say it was an accident why press charges

PennyAgain
PennyAgain

@bayonnebernie @TIME If this turns out to be true, Oscar will have betrayed many of us.

easyweblinx
easyweblinx

oh oh simpson re-run?

easynewslinx.com

vstillwell
vstillwell

Reminds me of the girl who was drunk and walked into the wrong house and got shot and almost died. Most people are not capable of handling firearms in what often turns out to be fictional self defense situations. Sadly, loved ones and innocents are the people who pay the steep price. 

Paul Shima Mningem
Paul Shima Mningem

Lack of self control. He should have a rethink about his life. Lord have mercy!

Irene Shaw
Irene Shaw

Oh no... That's so sad... He seems to be such a great guy...

Monica-chan Monica-chan
Monica-chan Monica-chan

If the neighbors heard shouting and screaming probably it was a fight gone awry especially since it was not the first domestic incident reported. It's so sad! He was my hero at the Olympics . She was so beautiful! I'm sorry for her it was a very courageous choice for such a beautiful woman to date a double amputee she might have had a better catch especially in light of what happened

Suraiya Mansoor
Suraiya Mansoor

Wait to ear da real story! Somthn did go wrong! But takn a life is a HOLY OFFENCE!

Teri Anderson
Teri Anderson

so pretty, such a waste of a beautiful woman, very unfair..So sorry for her family.

Paul Warner
Paul Warner

"I'm not really a morning person m'lord"

Scott Beals
Scott Beals

Surely he'll have his day in court, but to be charged with murder so quickly is indicative of a guilty man. Whatever the outcome, she didn't deserve to die.

Ash Zee
Ash Zee

Even cowards are killers nowadays!

Paul Heyns
Paul Heyns

He has got a history of violence nathan!!

Lorraine McDermott
Lorraine McDermott

Nathan, there is actually three sides to a story, HIS, HERS and the TRUTH. South Africans live in fear 24/7 - even in their own homes. Maybe, just maybe, she arrived early in the hours to surprise him with a valentines gift and he was alarmed. Time will tell !!!

Nathan Øshuizen
Nathan Øshuizen

Im proudly South-African...And im going to try and be simple about this... You know....This kid had to overcome alot of obstacles in his life. He nearly didn't qualify for the Olympics and after that nearly drowned when he went on a drinking binge on a little raft that nearly cost him his life before London. Yeah...The dude is an inspiration to alot of physically disabled people all around the world. I mean,the 1st disabled person to run with other abled bodied athletes Our law states that 'Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.. Look,there is 2-sides to the coin here but already no-one ain't giving Oscar no-quater on this charge. Its Kinda sad to the family who lost a loved one on a day like today. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

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