CAPE TOWN, South Africa, February 14- South African Paralympics star Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder and is in custody after reportedly shooting his girlfriend dead in the middle of the night after mistaking her for a burglar.
Reports had claimed that Pistorius accidentally mistook his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a burglar, shooting her four times in the head and arm.
Police now have 48 hours to question him and continue their investigations, with Pistorius due to appear in court at 14:00 local time (3pm Kenyan time), according to police spokeswoman Sarah Mcira.
A police spokeswoman said that they were “surprised” about reports of a perceived break-in, and confirmed that there have been “previous incidents” at Pistorius’s home of “a domestic nature”. It was also revealed that he “appeared to be in massive shock”.
Police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene and a 26-year-old man was taken into custody. In South Africa, police do not identify suspects until they are charged in court.
“There are witnesses and they have been interviewed this morning. We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place,” police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters outside the residential complex in Pretoria.
“At this stage he is on his way to a district surgeon for medical examination and will be appearing at the Pretoria Magistrate Court at 2 pm this afternoon.”
His father, Henke Pistorius, said: “I haven’t seen him. He is with the police and the matter is in the hands of the authorities. Obviously we are shocked.”
Pistorius’s agent, Peet van Zyl, told the Daily Telegraph: “I hope I can have access to him at the police station. At this point in time I can’t give any details about what has happened.
“Oscar is a humble person and a lovely guy – I’m sure what’s happened has been a terrible mistake but I really don’t have the details at the moment.”
Paramedics were called to Pistorius’s home between 4am and 5am local time, with police arriving shortly afterwards to recover a 9mm pistol from the scene.
Steenkamp’s body was removed by a hearse at around 8am.
Steenkamp was reported to have been dating Pistorius for a year.
In the social pages of last weekend’s Sunday Independent, she described Pistorius as having “impeccable” taste.
“His gifts are always thoughtful,” she was quoted as saying.
She was a model who had previously appeared in South Africa’s FHM magazine.
Miss Steenkamp, a top South African model and a law graduate, was active on Twitter just 14 hours before, and appeared to hint at plans to surprise her sprinter boyfriend.
She tweeted: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?? #getexcited #ValentinesDay”
Her publicist Sarit Tomlinson said: “She was the sweetest human being and an absolute angel on earth. She was the kindest, most unbelievable girl.”
Pistorius, known as the ‘Blade Runner’, is the most famous Paralympic athlete in the world. The 26-year-old is a six-times Paralympic gold medallist and became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics at 2012, where he took part in the 400m.
Pistorius dominated at successive Paralympic Games after winning medals at the 2004 Athens Games.
Last year, Time Magazine named him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
The athlete’s home is in the Silverwoods estate in eastern Pretoria, and is a high security compound with electrified walls, a guarded entrance and regular patrols.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent crime, and many homeowners possess weapons to defend themselves against intruders.
In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.
Runner’s World magazine editor Mike Finch, speaking from South Africa, told Sky News: “If anybody can overcome this sort of thing it’s probably Oscar.
“He’s had to deal with a lot in his life. He had a mother that died when he was very young, he obviously has his disability, but yet he’s been amazing from a South African perspective as an ambassador.
“There is a certain school of people that don’t particularly like him, but I think today everybody has kind of rallied round him.”
Nike are among Pistorius’s major sponsors, and a spokesman said that the company was “saddened by the news, but we have no further comment to make at this stage”.
South Africa’s Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee said the organisation was in no position to comment, “other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned”.