Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. Picture: THE TIMES
Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. Picture: THE TIMES

THE Valentine’s Day murder at Paralympic and Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius’s house in Pretoria dominated newspapers on Friday, even overshadowing President Jacob Zuma’s opening of Parliament.

News of the gold medallist’s arrest on Thursday after the death of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, had shocked South Africa and the world.

In his address last year, Mr Zuma described Mr Pistorius — who uses carbon-fibre prosthetic blades to run — as the country’s "star performer", congratulating him on winning the 2012 Laureus Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award. A year later, as Mr Zuma delivered his address, Mr Pistorius prepared to spend his night in jail ahead of his first court appearance on Friday.

Business Day was the only daily newspaper to lead with Mr Zuma, reporting on tax policies in mining, although several reports on Mr Pistorius published on BDlive on Thursday had attracted record numbers of online readers.

Afrikaans daily Beeld dedicated five pages to the story, with its front-page story headlined "Dood agter deur (Dead behind door)", saying it understood Steenkamp was shot four times through a bathroom door.

According to the paper, police and security guards were called to Mr Pistorius’s house about two hours before the shooting, after neighbours heard him and Steenkamp arguing. Police were called out a second time at about 3am after neighbours heard gunshots, reported Beeld, quoting an unnamed resident of the Silver Woods residential estate.

It also said an initial report that the shooting had been an accident had come from police Capt Sarah Mcira, though another police spokesperson later on Thursday said that allegation had come as a surprise.

The Star newspaper cited sources saying Steenkamp’s body was found downstairs in the entrance hall of his R3.9m home, and it dedicated its editorial opinion to domestic violence.

The Times newspaper said a "highly skilled team of blood-spatter forensic specialists" would fine-comb Mr Pistorius’s house on Friday morning.

The Citizen’s front-page headline was "Blade gunner?" while the Daily Sun reported on "Oscar’s bloody Valentine!" and the Sowetan headlined its report "Golden boy loses shine".

The New Age newspaper led with Steenkamp’s death, saying it had a copy of a speech she had prepared to deliver on Valentine’s Day at a high school in Sandton.

As Mr Zuma started his speech at 7pm on Thursday, 24-hour news channel eNews featured a special report on Mr Pistorius, referring viewers to its sister e.tv channel if they wanted to follow the president’s speech.

When 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 Sky, CNN and the BBC.

On Thursday, brand and marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk said how far Mr Pistorius had fallen from grace had yet to be determined.

"Whatever the outcome of the case, it will affect the Oscar Pistorius brand heavily, to the same level as Lance Armstrong. Earlier, Nike issued a statement supporting him. I think that was a knee-jerk reaction," said Mr Moerdyk.

By Thursday evening, only one sponsor, M-Net, had ditched Mr Pistorius. He was also sponsored by British telecoms group BT and eyewear brand Oakley.

His sponsorship deals are thought to be worth about $2m a year.

With Reuters, Sapa, Samuel Mungadze and Natasha Marrian