Pistorius weeps as court told he murdered Reeva Steenkamp

Paralympian charged with murder of his model girlfriend breaks down in a Pretoria courtroom

LAST UPDATED AT 13:35 ON Fri 15 Feb 2013

OSCAR PISTORIUS held his head in his hands and wept during a brief appearance in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court today as prosecutors alleged he had killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in an act of "premeditated murder".

In a statement released after the court hearing, his lawyers said the Paralympian refuted the murder allegation in "the strongest terms".

Pistorius's appearance today in the packed courtroom came as the South African newspaper Beeld ran a front page story claiming he had shot the 30-year-old model four times through the bathroom door at his Pretoria home. Steenkamp was hit in the head, chest, pelvis and hand, the paper said.

Beeld said security guards who went to Pistorius's house after hearing shots had found the 26-year-old sprinter kneeling by Steenkamp's body in the bathroom. The paper says the door had "bullet holes right through it".

Pistorius walked into today's "highly charged" hearing wearing a dark suit and with his "jaws clenched", the Cape Times reports. When magistrate Desmond Nair greeted him, he began to cry. "Take it easy," Nair told him. "Come take a seat."

Nair postponed the case until 19 February to give Pistorius's lawyers more time to prepare his defence and to "properly categorise the charge against him in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act," the paper says. The athlete nicknamed 'Blade Runner' will be held in police custody at a police station in Brooklyn, Pretoria until his appearance next week.

Reuters says the case has "stunned" South Africa, a nation that reveres the athlete dubbed 'The fastest man on no legs'. Steenkamp's death is a devastating twist in the story of a man "who triumphed over adversity to compete with able-bodied athletes at the highest levels of sport".

Reuters points out that Pistorius commanded "rare respect on all sides of the racial divides that persist in Nelson Mandela's 'Rainbow Nation' 19 years after the end of apartheid". · 

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