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Pistorius facing murder charge

Oscar Pistorius (left) offered no plea when he appeared in court.

Oscar Pistorius (left) offered no plea when he appeared in court.

PRETORIA — South African “Blade Runner”, Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, broke down in tears today after he was charged in court with shooting dead his girlfriend in his Pretoria home.

The 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic superstar stood with head bowed in front of magistrate Desmond Nair to hear the charge that he had murdered model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius then started sobbing, covering his face with his hands.

“Take it easy,” Nair told him. “Come take a seat.”

The case has stunned a nation that revered “the fastest man on no legs” as a hero who managed to compete at the highest levels of sport despite being born without a fibula in either leg.

Prosecutors told the Pretoria court the shooting of 30-year-old Steenkamp in the early hours of Thursday was pre-meditated.

Pistorius faces life in prison if found guilty.

He did not enter a plea but a statement issued by his family and London-based agent said the charge was disputed “in the strongest possible terms”.

“He (Pistorius) has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva,” the statement said, in the first message attributed to him since his arrest.

Steenkamp was found shot dead in Pistorius’s plush home in the middle of a heavily guarded gated complex in the northern outskirts of the capital, police said.

The Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper said she was hit four times, in the head, chest, pelvis and hand.

“The security guards found Pistorius by Steenkamp’s body in the bathroom,” the paper said on its website, citing a neighbour. “The door had bullet holes right through it.”

Defense lawyer Kenny Oldwage said his client had an “extremely traumatised state of mind”. He did not request bail before proceedings were adjourned until February 19. (Reuters)

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