Zeenews Sports Bureau
Pretoria (South Africa): Oscar Pistorius broke into tears in court on Friday as his defence against charges of "premeditated murder" began at the Pretoria Magistrates' Court. He allegedly shot his girlfriend in the early hours on Thursday morning.
Magistrate Desmond Nair agreed to allow Oscar Pistorius to be held at a police station in Brooklyn, Pretoria, instead of being put in a local prison. He also agreed to shift the bail hearing to Tuesday, when the court will reconvene.
In a statement issued later in the day, by Pistorius' agent, the Paralympian said that he disputed the charge in the "strongest terms".
"Firstly, and most importantly, all our thoughts today must be with the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp," the statement said.
"Oscar Pistorius has appeared in court here in Pretoria this morning formally charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms," the statement added.
The charge against the Paralympic hero is of "premeditated murder" as the prosecution does not believe it was an accident.
Read on for a detailed report of what went on in this first court session, followed by a bit of the background on the case (also available on the link above) and rounded-up with some reactions from relevant people:
Also Read: Who is Oscar Pistorius?»
3.50pm IST: That's all for this session. The next hearing will be about Pistorius' bail and will happen on Tuesday, February 19. He gets up and walks out amidst a flurry of camera-clicks.
3.45pm IST: Magistrate Nair agrees to allow Pistorius to be kept in the police station instead of local prison at the behest of the defence. So he'll remain at the Brooklyn police station. Nair also agrees to postpone the bail hearing till Tuesday: "I accede to the request by the defence for a postponement until next Tuesday."
3.35pm IST: The bail hearing appears to have been shifted to Tuesday and the prosecution seems to agree with that. Magistrate Desmond Nair mentions "premidatated murder" and Pistorius is in tears again. Regardless of the inal verdict, he's definitely in strong emotional pain right now.
3.20pm IST: As the debates begin, initially about TV access and such things, Pistorius is almost doubled up as he sits crying. He sems inconsolable as his father tries to comfort him. One journalist describes him as "sobbing, almost shaking" as his brother moves to comfort him.
3.10pm IST: Oscar Pistorius will be tried on one count of murder, as we'd already found out. The man, himself, stands in the dock in a grey suit and blue shirt, his head bowed. He's in tears as the proceedings begin.
3.05pm IST: This hearing is largely to determine whether the 'Blade Runner' should be let out on bail. The prosecution has already stated its stance on the issue, categorically affirming that it would be against any such allowance. Magistrate Desmond Nair, meanwhile, takes his seat. The proceedings are about to begin.
2.45pm IST: Pistorius' family: his father, brother and sister, are all in the front row to support Oscar. Earlier reports from the police also refer to neighbours reporting that they heard some screaming and shouting around the time of the shooting.
2.15pm IST: The proceedings are expected to begin in about 15 minutes and the world's media is watching this with a mixture of shock and a growing sense of distraught.
1.15pm IST: 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius has arrived at the Pretoria magistrates' court for his hearing after he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Early reports suggested that it was a case of a Valentine`s Day surprise gone horribly wrong as Pistorius shot her thinking she was a burglar.
But South African police have insisted that they want to press `murder` charges against the man popularly referred to as the `Blade Runner`, revealing that the police had previously been called in with regards some `domestic violence`. They have also confirmed that they wil oppose any bail application, adding to the rumours that they have a strong case.
While the South African athelte was due to appear in court yesterday, after he requested for an early hearing, the police deferred it to Friday so that the forensic team had ample time to carry out their investigations.
There was an overall reaction of utter disbelief as news of the Oscar Pistorius incident spread across the world via the various media outlets.
Pistorius’ lawyer Kenny Oldwage said, while revealing that they'd pursue a bail application for his client, that Pistorius was "very emotional", but he is "keeping up".
The mayor of Gemona, a small Italian town where Oscar trained ceaselessly last year while training or his Olympic debut, spoke to the media yesterday.
"The news shocked not only me personally but also the whole of Gemona and the region," said Mayor Paolo Urbani, "It`s come as a huge shock to everyone who knew him."
"I have to say Oscar was an exceptional testimonial for our project, helping the city take forward its sporting plans. He`s a delightful person, not only as a sportsman but also how he is as a human being. The news is still very fragmentary and we`re waiting to hear more, to find out exactly what happened."
Fellow Olympian and American athlete Nick Symmonds is good friends with Pistorius. He ound out about the matter when he switched on the TV at 6 in the morning.
"I was just shocked like everybody else," he said. "We`re going to have to let the courts down in South Africa sort out the facts."
Ato Boldon, four-time Olympic medalist, spoke in support of the `Blade Runner` adding that he`d be the last guy you`d ever think capable of murder.
"He exudes class. He`s gracious. He`s humble," he said.
The International Paralympic Committee said that since it was a "police matter", it would be "inappropriate for the IPC to comment on this incident until the official police process has concluded."
"The IPC would like to offer its deepest sympathy and condolences to all families involved in this case," it added.
Former 100-meter world record-holder Asafa Powell tweeted about Steenkamp`s death and the unfortunate incident: "Sad news about @oscarpistorius & fatal shooting of his girlfriend he`s a true inspiration & amazing athlete. A real tragedy for all," Powell wrote.
"It`s incredible for anyone involved with Oscar, especially his family," said former Italian pole vaulter Andrea Giannini, who had also coached the Blade Runner from 2009 to 2011.
"I knew Oscar well. I`m hoping it was just a tragic accident. He`s a marvelous person, a really sweet and calm guy. It seemed like this was a calm time for him. He seemed really happy and well-balanced."