Oscar Pistorius, the man who made history as the first Paralympian to compete in the Olympics, has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
At a preliminary hearing on Friday morning, Pistorius was seen with his head in his hands, weeping, as prosecutors said they would seek a charge of premeditated murder.
Police say the 30-year-old model was reportedly shot four times early Thursday morning. She was found dead inside Pistorious’ home in Pretoria, South Africa.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time,” said Steenkamp’s publicist in a statement. “Everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed.”
CNN has reported that a gun was recovered at the scene. Police spokeswoman Denise Beukes said that authorities had responded previously to complaints of a “domestic nature” at the runner’s home but declined to give further details.
“Yes, there are witnesses, and there have also been interviews this morning,” Beukes told reporters. “We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”
Pistorius’ family has issued a statement that disputed the allegations in “the strongest terms.” The statement said Pistorius wanted to “send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva.”
“He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received – but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family – regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy,” it read.
The 26-year-old athlete, who was born without fibulas, had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday. Using carbon fiber prosthetic blades to run, he won two gold medals and a silver at last year’s Paralympic Games in London. In the 2012 Olympics, he reached the 400-meter semifinal and competed in the 4×400 meter relay.
Pistorius was first seen publicly with Steenkamp in November at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg. The blonde, who was featured in FHM’s Sexiest Women in the World issue two years running, was described by the magazine’s editor as “an amazing girl, a really intelligent person.”
Image via Ice Model Management
In addition to a successful modeling career, Steenkamp a law school graduate and an entrepreneur committed to empowering women.
One of her last tweets: “[Valentine's Day] should be a day of love for everyone may it be blessed.”