Initial reports suggested he’d accidentally shot his girlfriend last night, mistaking her for an intruder. But now he’s been charged with murder. And there are disturbing personal details emerging about the first paralympian to compete against able bodied athletes in the London 2012 Olympics.
South African Paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp. The couple had been dating for two months.
Pistorius, who is known as the “blade runner” because of his high-tech prostheses, spent last night in jail after he allegedly shot Steenkamp four times in the early hours of Thursday morning. He’ll appear in court today.
This from the UK press:
In a drama that stunned South Africa and admirers abroad, Pistorius allegedly fired four bullets into Reeva Steenkamp’s head, chest and arm at his home in the capital, Pretoria, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The life of the glamorous athlete, known as the “blade runner” for his hi-tech artificial legs, has been one of world sport’s defining narratives of triumph over adversity, culminating in his appearance at the both the Olympics and Paralympics in London last year.
When the news of Steenkamp’s death broke last night, initial reports suggested that Pistorius may have shot his girlfriend by accident.
There were early reports that the 26-year-old sprinter mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and shot her using a gun he kept in his home.
A Valentine’s surprise gone wrong, it was initially suggested.
But those claims have since been dismissed by South African police, who say that they are treating the death as a murder and that there are currently no other suspects other than the sporting superstar.
Oscar Pistorius is one of the most celebrated paralympians in the world and is a hero in his home country. He is a double amputee – both his legs were amputated from the knee down before his first birthday because of a congenital condition. He went on to become the only double amputee who’s competed in the Olympics.
This story from The Independent describes the kind of hero-worship Oscar held around the world:
Long before he had become one of the faces of the London Olympics last summer, Pistorius was a hero in his native land, his celebrity status extending far beyond the boundaries of sport. He was variously depicted as sex symbol, fashion icon, celebrity and national treasure.
He had won more awards than he had gold medals, many of them outside South Africa and sport: honorary doctorates (including Strathclyde University), the BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s Helen Rollason Award, Time magazine’s “Time 100” list as one of the most influential people in the world, and so on.
Above all, he was seen as a nice man, unaffected by fame and fortune, who had shrugged off the small disability of having no legs to become the holder of a whole slew of world records.
But in the hours since the story of Steenkamp’s death, stories about a different side to the man who has been described as “the most decent man you will ever meet in your life” have begun to emerge. And questions about his private life and previous incidents of assault have been raised.
This from News Limited:
“There were always rumours attracted to Oscar Pistorius, but most of them I just put down to him being a celebrity,” said Kyle Wood, a 25-year-old fellow resident of the Silverlakes community.
In 2009 Pistorius spent a night in jail after allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a party.
Last year (Pistorius) told a newspaper he sleeps with a pistol, machine gun, cricket bat and baseball bat for fear of burglars.
Then there’s this, again from the UK press:
An article in January last year in the New York Times magazine described him talking about how he pulled a pistol to search his home when his alarm went off the night before an interview.
At Pistorius’s suggestion, he and the journalist went to a nearby target range where they fired at targets with a 9mm pistol. At one point Pistorius told the writer: “If you practised, I think you could be pretty deadly.”
Asked how often he went target shooting, Pistorius replied: “Just sometimes when I can’t sleep.”
In a message posted on Twitter on 27 November last year, Pistorius wrote: “Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!”
While the full facts of this case are yet to be established, it serves as a painful reminder that sometimes all can seem well from an outsider’s perspective but behind closed doors a relationship can be a dangerous one.
Violence against women, particularly in a domestic setting, remains prevalent across the globe. Far too many women fall victim to physical and emotional abuse within relationships – and a disturbing number result in death.
In the course of their lifetimes one in three Australian women will be the subject of violence. One in five will be the subject of sexual violence.
While this case is a shocking and high profile one, it is important to remember that it is not uncommon. Violence against women remains one of the great tragedies of the first world and a leading cause of death.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can ring the Domestic Violence Line for help on 1800 656 463 (TTY 1800 671 442). The Domestic Violence Line is a statewide free-call number and is available 24 hours, seven days a week.