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Murder accused Pistorius arrives in court

Published: 5:17AM Friday February 15, 2013 Source: ONE News / AAP

South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius has arrived in court in Pretoria, South Africa, charged with murdering his girlfriend.

Pistorius is alleged to have fatally shot 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp at their home on Valentine's Day.

Two police vehicles transported Pistorius to the Pretoria Magistrate's Court around 9am local time (8pm NZT). Proceedings are expected to start within the hour.

A swarm of media awaited his arrival. Court officials initially ordered photographers and videojournalists out of the court, according to Associated Press journalist Jon Gambrell, but videojournalists from a number of news organisations have been allowed back in. 

The BBC has also reported that journalists are going to be allowed to film during the proceedings.

Pistorius' defence lawyer has said he will ask for his client to be released on bail. He is expected to argue that Pistorius is traumatised by what was a terrible accident, and that he is not a flight risk.

The prosecution has made it clear they will argue against this.

Police said they opened a murder case after Steenkamp was found dead at the Paralympic star's house in the Silverlakes gated complex on Pretoria's outskirts.

It was originally reported that Pistorius had mistaken Steenkamp as an intruder, but South African police have since said this was not the case.

Neighbours reported hearing loud voices and an argument at the house. South African media have reported Steenkamp suffered four gunshot wounds to her head and upper body.

Steenkamps's uncle says the family is "devastated".

"Her future has been cut short," he said.

Steenkamp's colleagues in the modelling world were also distraught.

"We are all devastated. Her family is in shock," her agent, Sarita Tomlinson, said.

"They did have a good relationship. Nobody actually knows what happened."

Sporting community shocked

Sports commentator Mark Watson spent time with Pistorius at the Paralympic Track and Field World Championships in Christchurch in 2011 and said he was "very good with kids, good with the fans".

He says Pistorius can take credit for making Paralympic sport popular.

Australian athlete Tamsyn Lewis said she was shocked to learn about the death

She said Pistorius was an inspirational character who was about to start a charity to assist disabled children.

'Full combat mode'

The tragedy comes nearly three months after Pistorius tweeted about going into "full combat recon mode" when he mistook a washing machine for an intruder.

"Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!"

Police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters Pistorius and Steenkamp were the only two people in the house and that police were aware of previous incidents at the Pistorius house.

"I can confirm that there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr Oscar Pistorious, of allegations of a domestic nature," she said.

She said witnesses who had heard the incident had been interviewed.

"We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," Beukes said outside the heavily guarded residential complex.

Police said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene.

Pistorius' lawyer Kenny Oldwage told SABC TV that he was "doing well but very emotional". He gave no further comment.

Arsenal of weapons

Pistorius has previously admitted to sleeping with a pistol beside his bed, a machine gun by a window with a cricket bat and baseball bat behind the door, despite the high security features of his plush Johannesburg home.

The house is in an exclusive gated community which is patrolled by armed guards.

"The problem is when the guards are in on the crime. It's usually safe in guarded estates like this until that happens," he told Britain's the Daily Mail before the 2012 London Olympics.

Pistorius also posted a photograph of himself at a shooting range in November 2011 to the social media website Twitter, bragging about his score, tweeting: 'had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!' he tweeted.

Pistorius was arrested in 2009 for assault after slamming a door on a woman and spent a night in police custody. Family and friends said it was just an accident and charges were dropped.

Advertisments pulled

A Nike advertisement featuring Pistorius with the caption "I am a bullet in the chamber" was pulled from his website today.

Workmen were also spotted pulling down billboards advertising television coverage of the Oscars featuring Oscar Pistorius immediately after news of the tragedy broke.

South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel said it was pulling adverts featuring Pistorius off air immediately after blanket coverage of the arrest in a country more used to honouring Pistorius as a national hero.

High violence rate

South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius's complex is surrounded by a three-metre high wall and electric fence.

In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.

Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said the athlete may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Beukes said she did not know where the report came from, and that the forensic investigation was ongoing.

Sweet tweets

Steenkamp, a regular on the South African social scene, was reported to have been dating Pistorius for several months.

In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday Independent she described him as having "impeccable" taste. "His gifts are always thoughtful," she was quoted as saying.

Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to Valentine's Day on Thursday. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.

Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metre semi-finals in London 2012.

In last year's Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 metres in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades, though he was quick to express regret for the comments.


- with Reuters

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