South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius was in court today, charged with murder after his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was found dead at his home in Pretoria. While sponsors rushed to tear down billboards bearing his image and broadcasters dropped him from their schedules, there was a broader feeling that the media had ignored a darker side to the first Paralympic icon.
Pistorius has denied murdering his girlfriend in the “strongest terms” and offered his “deepest sympathies” to her family.
The South African athlete appeared in court on Friday to face a murder charge, his family and management company issued a statement that said: “Firstly, and most importantly, all our thoughts today must be with the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp.
“Oscar Pistorius has appeared in court here in Pretoria this morning formally charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms.”
“Oscar Pistorius has made history as an Olympic and Paralympic sportsman and has been an inspiration to others the world over,” the statement added.
“He has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva.
“He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received – but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family, regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy.”
The 26-year-old broke down and wept uncontrollably in court as prosecutors said they would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against him.
It has been claimed that Pistorius will plead he mistook her for a burglar, and a South Africa media report on Friday reported he shot four times through a bathroom door. Police have not disclosed details and there has been no verification of the claim.
Stuart Higgins, a former editor of the Sun and now a PR consultant, has flown out to South Africa to help co-ordinate the Pistorius family’s media strategy.
Reeva Steenkamp’s final comments on Twitter on the eve of her death revealed a young woman excited about Valentine’s Day, as she bantered with her friends.
“What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay”.
The 30-year-old model had been planning a birthday surprise for her new boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, a man she had described to local newspapers as “impeccable” and “thoughtful” in the gifts he bought her.
A close friend who visited the Silverwoods estate where she was found dead yesterday morning said that the former law student had been excitedly talking with girlfriends about a special surprise that she was planning.
Her relationship with the Olympics hero had further raised her profile in South Africa where she was already known for featuring on a men’s magazine list of the 100 sexiest women.
At the time of her death the blonde model had been promoting a celebrity reality television show she had appeared in alongside the rapper AKA, filmed late last year in Jamaica.