PRETORIA, South Africa – Oscar Pistorius is “numb with shock as well as grief” after the shooting death of his model girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner’s uncle said Saturday, as his family strongly denied prosecutors’ claims that he murdered her.
Arnold Pistorius spoke with The Associated Press and two other South African journalists about his nephew’s arrest in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot on Valentine’s Day. Arnold Pistorius spoke to reporters from the garden of his home in the suburbs of South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
The statement, the first on camera and directly made in person by Pistorius’ family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against the 26-year-old Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.
“After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder,” Arnold Pistorius said. “We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state’s own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or murder as such.”
The track star’s arrest in the killing of Steenkamp, 29, shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech carbon fiber running blades and revered for overcoming his disability to compete at the London Olympics. She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius’ home in a gated community. Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9 mm pistol was found at the home.
Pistorius remains held at a police station pending a bail hearing Tuesday. Police have already said they’ll oppose Pistorius being released before trial. A premeditated murder charge also makes it more difficult for his defense team to get bail.
On Saturday afternoon, Pistorius’ lawyers visited the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria, where the athlete is being held.
There will be a variety of hearings before Pistorius could be tried. In South Africa, there are no juries, so a judge ultimately would decide Pistorius’ guilt or innocence. An initial hearing was held Friday. Pistorius has yet to enter a plea in the case.
The family denial that Pistorius committed murder doesn’t necessarily mean that they say he didn’t shoot her, as murder is a legal term. Initial speculation Thursday suggested that the shooting could have been accidental.