"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius Charged With Murder Of Girlfriend

South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp are seen at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg, Nov. 4, 2012. (Credit: AP)
By  | 

Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, police and the woman's talent agent said Thursday.

Capacity Relations talent management firm said 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp was the victim of the shooting.

Pretoria Police spokeswoman Denise Buekes said officers received a call in the middle of the night saying there had been a shooting at the 26-year-old double-amputee runner's home in a gated housing complex in the capital, Pretoria. A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.

His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but was postponed until Friday to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.

Another police spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale Mogale, said that when police arrived they found paramedics trying to revive the woman, who had been shot an unspecified number of times. Mogale said the woman died at the house.

South African media speculated that Pistorius may have mistaken the young woman for an intruder, but Buekes said that suggestion came as a surprise to police, adding that detectives and forensics experts were still combing over the crime scene. She said there were no other people in the home when the shooting occurred.

"The South African Police Service were just as surprised this morning to hear over the radio that allegations had been made that the deceased has been perceived to be a burglar," said Buekes. "We were very surprised, and those allegations did not come from us."

Buekes said police had been called to the home on previous occasions over "allegations of a domestic nature," but she would not elaborate on when those incidents at Pistorius' house occurred, or who was involved. She said there were "no signs of forced entry" at the house Thursday morning.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports Pistorius and Steenkamp had been an A-list celebrity couple in South Africa since autumn 2012. This was to be their first Valentine's day together.

She was a frequent cover-girl with super-model looks, and by the sound of the tweets she had sent out, the romance seemed to be going well. "It should be a day of love for everyone," she said just a day before she died.

Buekes would not confirm the identity of the woman who was found dead, saying only that she was "a friend" of Pistorius, and that family members had not yet had a chance to identify the victim.

The police spokeswoman said there were witnesses who were to be interviewed Thursday, including neighbors who heard the gunfire.

She said Pistorius had requested a court appearance on Thursday and that she believed he would request bail -- a request Buekes said Pretoria police "will be opposing." Buekes insisted that Pistorius -- one of South Africa's most famous athletes ever, was getting "no special treatment whatsoever."

The track star lived in a highly secured, gated community in Pretoria. Crime is rife in the nation, where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty.

Many wealthy South Africans live in secured homes with private security, and legally keep firearms in their houses to defend themselves in the event of a home intrusion. Intrusions and attempted intrusions are common in South Africa.

Pistorius has spoken publicly before about keeping guns at his house to defend against intruders. In 2012, he taught a New York Times reporter how to shoot a 9mm handgun at a local firing range after learning that the reporter had never shot a gun before. He told the reporter he had heard an alarm go off in his home the night before the interview and had come downstairs with his gun to investigate, though it turned out to be nothing.

South Africa has some of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people killed each day in the nation of 50 million. It also has high rates of rape, other assaults, robbery and carjackings.

U.N. statistics show South Africa has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, second only to Colombia.

Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. He is one of South Africa's and the world's most famous sportsmen.

Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades -- which critics said gave him an unfair advantage -- he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.

He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history after being have his selection confirmed on South Africa's team at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee released a statement later Thursday saying they had been "inundated" with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting.

"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 South African Olympic committee said. "The organization 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."