PRETORIA - A sobbing Oscar Pistorius appeared in court Friday, as the South African double-amputee Olympic runner was formally charged with the murder of his model girlfriend.

Appearing in front of the central magistrate’s court this morning, Pistorius broke down in body-wrenching sobs as prosecutors announced that they will pursue premeditated murder charges in Thursday's pre-dawn death of 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp.

The 26-year-old runner became an international icon and national hero in South Africa after breaking historic barriers by competing in the 400-meters at last year's London Olympics on two specially designed blades.

Reuters reports that the hearing had been delayed for two hours due to the “media scrum” in the courtroom. No live cameras were allowed, only audio. 

The Guardian’s reporter David Smith was live tweeting the hearing, reporting that Judge Desmond Nair used the phrase “premeditated murder” and was concerned that because of Pistorius’ celebrity that he would receive preferential treatment. He has not been brought to prison, remaining in police custody until his application for bail hearing next Tuesday.

Afrikaans newspaper Beeld reports that the model was shot four times through the bathroom door. The daily also quoted an unnamed neighbor of Pistorius who called the police two hours before the shooting, because of the couple’s arguing, and then again at 3 a.m. after the gunshots. 

On average in South Africa, 43 people are murdered each day. Steenkamp’s murder has now reignited the debate about gun control. Adèle Kirsten for Gun Free South Africa stated that three women a day were killed by their intimate partner in 2009. 

A 2012 New York Times Magazine article about Pistorius described him talking about how he had drawn his 9mm pistol to search his home when his alarm went off in the middle of the night. A 9mm pistol is reportedly the weapon in this case. At Pistorius's suggestion, he and journalist Michael Sokolove went to a nearby target range. At one point Pistorius told the writer: "If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly." Asked how often he went target shooting, Pistorius replied: "Just sometimes when I can't sleep."

Initial media reports had stated that Pistorius had thought Steenkamp was an intruder, but the police discount that version of events, stating that the information did not come from them. Less than three months ago, the Olympian had joked about killing an intruder on his twitter page. 

Hebergeur d'image

The South African writer Justice Malala chimed on on The Guardian: “For us South Africans, and for many across the globe, it is impossible to watch Oscar Pistorius run without a stir of emotion, without wanting to break down and cry and shout with joy. Pistorius is no ordinary hero: he is that rare thing, a man with an almost-impossible narrative.”


This case has gripped South Africa so much so that even President Jacob Zuma’s opening of Parliament was overshadowed, failing to make the front pages of most national newspapers, says the Mail and Guardian.  

Perhaps the three best-known South Africans to the rest of the world are Nelson Mandela, Charlize Theron and Oscar Pistorius. Now, all three have guns in their biographies.

In 1991, Theron’s mother shot and killed the actress' father in self-defense in front of her. Mandela buried a pistol underground more than half a century ago, which went down in legend as the first weapon of the war against apartheid. And now, South Africa awaits the trial of Pistorius -- and the funeral of Steenkamp.