On Thursday, Olympic inspiration and Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a popular South African model and actress. According to police she was shot four times in the early hours of the morning inside the sprinter’s home, in a gated community in Pretoria.
Despite earlier reports suggesting that Pistorious, who is known as Blade Runner for his high-tech artificial legs, mistook Steenkamp for a burglar, police do not believe the shooting to be accidental based on witnesses interviewed at the scene of the early morning shootout and ”past allegations of a domestic nature.”
According to police spokesperson Brigadier Denise Beukes:
Yes there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning. We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place. It would be very premature and very irresponsible of me to say what actually has happened. There have been allegations. We are not sure. I’m not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents [at Pistorius's home].
Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, running in both the 400 meters and on South Africa’s 4×400 relay team at the London Games. Both of his legs were amputated below the knee prior to his first birthday because of a congenital absence of the fibula. After campaigning for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes, Pistorious was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2008 and allowed to run at international events despite the use of his carbon fibre blades — which the International Association of Athletic Federations initially found to offer the sprinter an unfair advantage.
Following the 2012 Olympics, Pistorius became a highly sought after source for endorsements, including this unfortunate advertisement with Nike.
The reported incidents and implications of domestic abuse by police paint a contradictory picture to the public image of not only Pistorious, but also Steenkamp, who used her celebrity status to draw attention to serious issues including sexual abuse and violence against women. This was the last image that she posted on Instagram:
The following text accompanied it:
I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA. RIP Anene Booysen. #rape #crime #sayNO
While the police are still waiting for her body to be officially identified by her family, Steenkamp’s publicist, Sarit Tomlinson, has confirmed the model/actress’s death.
We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away. We are in communication with people on the scene, please wait for official statements, as there is too much speculation at this moment in time. We will provide further information as soon as we are able to provide accurate information as to what transpired.
Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time, everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed.
The United Nations ranks South Africa second in the world for murder and first for assaults and rapes per capita, with nearly 50 killings committed each day in the country. According to a recent study issued by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, 90% of South African women have experienced emotional and physical abuse; 71% have experienced sexual abuse; and as many as five out of seven children are abused. Last year, South Africa ranked 16th in a Trust Law poll ranking the best and worst G20 nations for women.
Live updates on this breaking news are available via The Guardian.
Update: This is a real life tweet from ESPN’s Darren Rovell:
Pistorius was wearing a sweatshirt made by Oakley, his sponsor, when he was taken by police twitpic.com/c3p324
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) February 14, 2013