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South Africa stunned as Oscar Pistorius charged with murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius will appear in court tomorrow charged with murder of his girlfriend, FHM model Reeva Steenkamp, at his Pretoria home.

According to initial reports in local media, model Steenkamp, 30, may have been mistaken for a burglar at the property in the Silver Lakes Golf Estate in Pretoria.

But police said the shooting early today was being treated as a murder investigation and said there had been previous incidents at the address described as "allegations of a domestic nature".

Brigadier Denise Beukes also said police were "very surprised" by the burglar suggestion, telling reporters near the scene: "These allegations did not come from us."

The shooting took place in the double-amputee’s home early today.

Pistorius apparently told police today he had mistaken her for an intruder.

Cape Town-born Steenkamp, 29, who was shot in the head and arm, was declared dead at the scene.

Police captain Sarah Mcira confirmed a woman had been shot in the head and arm around 4am, but did not name her.

Shiri Reouveni, of Steenkamp’s PR agency, confirmed they had been told it was Steenkamp who had been shot, but did not want to say more. They would issue a statement later.

Another police spokeswoman, Katlego Mogale, said police had responded to reports of a shooting.

Paramedics had arrived at the complex and “declared the woman dead on the scene”, she said.

Reacting to the news the British Paralympic Association said in a statement: "The BPA has heard this morning of the tragedy in South Africa today involving Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

"We send our condolences to all involved. As it is a police matter, we will not comment further at this time."

Tennis star Laura Robson took to Twitter to express her shock.

"Can't believe the news about Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend," she wrote.

London 2012 Paralympic 200m champion Richard Whitehead tweeted: "Shocking news this morning regards my buddy Oscar P what a tragedy!!! Unbelievable I'm speechless £oscar."

Britain's Paralympic discus champions also went online to relay their shock.

Aled Davies tweeted "wow... Crazy news about Oscar... Devastating and speechless..." while Josie Pearson simply stated it was "Tragic..."

Wheelchair racer Shelly Woods, silver medallist in the London 2012 Paralympic marathon, tweeted: "Woke up to shocking news about Oscar Pistorius, very very sad..."

A 9mm handgun was found on the scene. Pistorius had been arrested and a case of murder was being investigated, she said.

“Statements are being taken from some of the neighbours and some of the first people on the scene,” she reported. “It is alleged that the deceased was his girlfriend.”

This morning management at the upmarket access-controlled Silverwoods Estate, where the Olympic athlete was questioned before being taken to the Boschkop police station, barred reporters from entering.

A man identifying himself as |Pistorius’s lawyer made a brief appearance, saying the athlete was very emotional and would be in court later today.

Forensic investigators were on the scene, and police declined to release any more details or confirm the identity of the victim other than saying that a murder investigation was underway.

News of the shooting spread quickly around the world, with news services from New Zealand and Australia to the UK and the US scrambling for news on the latest developments, not only about Pistorius, but the victim.

On her Facebook page, Steenkamp said she was born in Cape Town and moved to Port Elizabeth as a child where she continued her studies after matriculating, eventually graduating with a degree in law.

She had moved to Johannesburg six years ago after being scouted and named the first face of cosmetics giant Avon South Africa.

She tweeted yesterday, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay”

Pistorius was looking forward to using his fame to benefit others, and tweeted on Tuesday: “In a run up to the launch of my foundation in July I will give at least 10kids mobility!”

Within hours of the shooting messages of condolence started appearing on Steenkamp’s Facebook page.

Pistorius’s profile has been growing since his Paralympic days and last year he became an international hero when he qualified for the able bodied Olympics where he had London, and the world, eating out of hand.

His reputation as the “fastest man on no legs” has continued to grow,  and he is the face of many advertising campaigns, including M-Net, where he is the face of the pay TV’s Oscar movie campaign.

Asked when an individual would be legally permitted to open fire on an alleged burglar, in general terms, top Cape Town criminal attorney William Booth explained: “You’re entitled to defend yourself or others from an attack.

“Even if the attack is not by someone with a firearm, you are quite legally entitled to defend yourself against any serious and imminent attack. The same applies to defending another person.

“Everything happens very quickly and the key decision is to establish whether this person is a threat to you, or to others sleeping in the house, for example.

“Even if you could not see whether a person climbing through your window was armed or not, you are still permitted to take necessary action to protect yourself from a likely attack.

“If you can show that people in your area have been burgled and killed, for example, then you can argue that you were entitled to act to protect yourself from a similar attack.

“In a situation in which you raise self-defence as a defence, the state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted unlawfully, that your actions exceeded the bounds of self-defence,” Booth said.


Blade runner Pistorius - his long battle to compete

Pistorius, known as the Blade Runner because of the distinctive prosthetics he uses for racing, is the world's best known Paralympic athletes.

He made history in London last summer when he became the first amputee athlete to take part in the Olympic Games.

The multiple Paralympic gold medal winner, who had to win a legal battle to line up alongside able-bodied athletes on his Ossur Flex-Foot Cheetah hi-tech "legs", raced in the 400m and the 4x400m relay.

Pistorius was born in Pretoria in 1986 without the fibula in both legs.

When he was aged 11 months, his parents make the decision to have his legs amputated below the knee.

His desire to compete was clear from an early age as he played rugby, water polo and tennis as a schoolboy.

In early 2004, aged 17, he turned to athletics after shattering his right knee playing rugby.

Wearing blades his impact was immediate - after two months training he set a new world record of 11.51 seconds in the 100m at an open competition at the Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria.

That September he won gold in the 200m at the Paralympic Games in Athens, setting a new world record of 21.97 seconds, plus a bronze in the 100m.

Pistorius had already set his sights on competing against able-bodied athletes. In 2005 he finished sixth in the open/able-bodied category 400m at the South African Open Championships.

The next few years saw more Paralympic medals, plus the 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason award, for outstanding courage and achievement in the face of adversity.

But in January 2008 his hopes of taking part in the Beijing Olympics suffered a setback when the IAAF ruled that his prosthetic legs were ineligible for use in competitions conducted under its rules, including the Olympic Games.

He appealed and the Court of Arbitration for Sport reversed the ban the following May.

However, he failed to qualify for the South African Olympic team in the 400m, despite running a personal best of 46.25 seconds.

He later took part in the Beijing Paralympics, winning gold in the 100m, 200m and the 400m, setting a new world record in the 400m.

Four years later he was named in the South African team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

After getting to the semi-finals of the 400m individual event, he was part of the South Africa team which finished eighth in the 4x400m relay final.

He later carried his country's flag at the closing ceremony.

His performances in the Paralympic Games also created a media storm - for a different reason.

On September 2 he finished second in the final of the 200m T44 classification, losing a lengthy lead to Alan Oliveira.

After the race, Pistorius raised issues with the length of his Brazilian rival's blades.

The following day he apologised for his outburst, saying "I would never want to detract from another athlete's moment of triumph."

Pistorius went on to add gold in the 400m and the 4x100m metres relay to his Paralympic tally.

Away from the track Pistorius is a motivational speaker and an ambassador for the Mineseeker Foundation, which raises money to clear minefields and helps people affected by landmines.

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