PRETORIA, South Africa
In a courtroom, not an Olympic stadium, there was no click-click-click of Oscar Pistorius’ prosthetic limbs. His only sound Friday was loud, uncontrollable sobs as prosecutors charged him with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his model girlfriend.
“Take it easy,” Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir told the Olympic star-turned-murder-defendant as his father, Henke, and his brother, Carl, reached out to touch his shoulder to comfort him.
The 26-year-old Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter who won world acclaim by competing in last summer’s London Olympics, did not speak or enter a plea. He held his head and wept as he heard the charge, which carries a life sentence.
A statement released later by his family and agent said Pistorius disputed the murder charge “in the strongest terms.”
The track star’s arrest in the Valentine’s Day killing of 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech prosthetics and revered for overcoming his disability to compete in the London Games.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius in the slaying of Steenkamp, a blond model with a law degree who had spoken out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women.
She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius’ upscale home in a gated community in the South African capital of Pretoria. Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9 mm pistol was recovered at the home.
Throngs of reporters, photographers and videographers filled the brick-walled Courtroom C in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court, where Pistorius appeared. Nasir’s first ruling focused on the press as he dismissed requests from the state broadcaster and a private television station to air the hearing live.
Nasir also ordered that no photographs be taken while court was in session.
Police said investigators had conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp’s bod,y but the results would not be released.
Since news of the slaying, shock waves have rippled across South Africa, a nation of 50 million where nearly 50 people are killed each day, one of the world’s highest murder rates. U.N. statistics say the nation has the second-highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, behind only Colombia.
At the defense request, the chief magistrate delayed a bail hearing until Tuesday for Pistorius, who was ordered held in a police holding cell rather than transferred to a prison.