Oscar Pistorius. Picture: REUTERS
Oscar Pistorius. Picture: REUTERS

PARALYMPIC and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius arrived in a police convoy at the Mamelodi Day Hospital on Thursday following the Valentine’s Day shooting of model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp at his home earlier in the day.

It was not immediately clear why he was there. He was taken to the clinic at high speed after spending part of the morning at the Boschkop police station.

Mr Pistorius was expected to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court later on Thursday after a case of murder was opened.

The management of the publicity agency that Steenkamp, 30, retained confirmed she had died. Sarit Tomlinson, MD of Capacity Relations, said in a statement: “We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away... Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time. Everyone is simply devastated.”

Steenkamp was reported to have been dating Mr Pistorius for a year.

Police spokeswoman Lt-Col Katlego Mogale said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene and a 26-year-old man was taken into custody. 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 Brig Denise Beukes told reporters outside the Silver Woods Country Estate complex in Pretoria where Mr Pistorius lived.

Shock

The public reacted with shock to the news of the shooting. Callers on John Robbie’s Talk Radio 702 breakfast show expressed a range of opinions about the incident, which has ignited a fresh debate on crime in the country.

Police officers, paramedics and local and international film crews were on the scene at the residential estate.

“Paramedics declared the woman dead on the scene and police proceeded with their investigation. The woman sustained wounds to her head and upper body,” spokeswoman Lt-Col Mogale said.

Lt-Col Mogale would not confirm an earlier news report that Mr Pistorius was the shooter. It was suggested he had mistaken the woman for a burglar.

Mr Robbie said on his show: “We are not prejudging but people will obviously speculate. All sorts of questions need to be answered.”

Another talk-show host, Redi Thlabi, raised the issue of gun ownership.

“I am just shocked and speechless. I wonder if this puts the spotlight on the gun ownership debate. Do you feel safe when you hear such stories?” she said.

As the news broke on Thursday morning, early reports flooded South African social media channels, with the topic quickly trending on Twitter. It was also the lead report on international news websites such as CNN and the BBC.

Last year, Mr Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympic Games when he ran the 400m race in London, reaching the semifinal, and was part of the South African 4x400m relay team. When competing, he uses specially designed carbon-fibre prostheses, which gave rise to his nickname of “Blade Runner”.

He also took part in the London Paralympics, where he won two gold medals and one silver medal.

'Obnoxious and rude to speculate'

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) said it could not comment on the news.

“Sascoc, like the rest of the public, knows no more than what is in the public domain, which is there has been an alleged fatal shooting on the basis of a mistaken identity and an apparent assumption of a burglary,” the Olympic body said in a statement.

“The organisation is in no position to comment on the incident other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned.”

Mr Pistorius’s father told South African Broadcasting Corporation radio news that his son was “sad”.

“I don’t know anything. It will be extremely obnoxious and rude to speculate. I don’t know the facts,” Henke Pistorius said. “If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be Oscar. He’s sad at the moment.”

Mr Pistorius is sponsored by British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley, sports apparel maker Nike and French designer Thierry Mugler.

With Samuel Mungadze, Sapa and Reuters