South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius has released a statement fiercely denying that he murdered his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He broke down in court as he was formally charged with her murder.
The athlete's family and management company said he disputed the murder charge laid against him on Friday "in the strongest possible terms." The statement, issued from London, added that Pistorius, 26, "would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva."
Hours earlier, dressed in a dark suit, Pistorius stood with his head bowed as he appeared in court for the first time. He audibly wept when magistrate Desmond Nair read out the single charge.
Outlining the prosecutors' case, Nair indicated that Pistorius stood accused of "premeditated murder." He said a bail hearing would be postponed until Tuesday, allowing the defense more time to prepare.
Little is currently known about circumstances surrounding her death, although South African media reported on Friday that the shots that killed Steenkamp were fired through a bathroom door.
Police have not confirmed that report, but have played down earlier reports that Pistorius may have mistaken her for an intruder.
Shot four times
Addressing a crowd of reporters on Thursday, police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes said a gun recovered at the scene belonged to the Paralympian.
"She was hit by four shots," Beukes said, adding that wounds were found in the head and hand.
"It's a 9mm pistol. It is a licensed firearm. It is licensed to Mr. Pistorius," Beukes said.
She added that previous incidents of a "domestic nature" had been reported at the athlete's luxury home in a gated complex in Pretoria.
Commonly known as the "blade runner," Pistorius made history in 2012 when he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games.
He went on to win gold in the 4x400-meter relay and the 400-meter individual at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. The athlete also took home gold medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games four years earlier in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter races.
Pistorius races wearing carbon fiber prosthetic blades, having had both legs amputated below the knee as a result of a congenital condition before his first birthday.
Last year he was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine.
ccp/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)