PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Sobbing softly with his head in his hands, Olympian Oscar Pistorius was charged Tuesday with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend on Valentine's Day. The defense lawyer says it was an accidental shooting.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court that Pistorius got up from bed, put on his prosthetic legs and walked seven meters (yards) from the bedroom toward the bathroom and shot 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp several times through the bathroom door, Pretoria. Nel told the court the door was broken open afterward.
The shooting death in the early hours of Valentine's Day of Steenkamp has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp was a model and budding reality TV show contestant.
Nel said the killing was premeditated because Pistorius had planned to say that he thought he was shooting an intruder. "It was all part of the preplanning. Why would a burglar lock himself inside the bathroom?" Nel said.
Defense lawyer Barry Roux said the shooting was accidental: "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder."
In arguing that Pistorius should be freed on bail, he said there were no other charges outstanding against the 26-year-old double-amputee who last year became the first double-amputee track athlete to run at the Olympics.
As the dramatic court hearing was held in the capital, Steenkamp's body was being driven to a church for a memorial service under gray skies in the south coast city of Port Elizabeth. Six pall bearers carried the coffin draped in white flowers. The family said relatives have gathered from around the world.
June Steenkamp, the mother, said the family wants answers.
"Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?" she said in an interview published Monday in The Times newspaper.
Legal experts say it could take months for the case to be tried.
Pistorius, in a gray suit and tie, nodded after the chief magistrate asked if he was well. And he nodded his appreciation when his brother, Carl, pressed his shoulder in support. Journalists jammed into the courtroom, which was full with almost 100 people, including Pistorius' father, Henke, and the athlete's sister, Aimee.
In an email to The Associated Press on Monday, Pistorius' longtime track coach — who was yet to comment — said he believes the killing was an accident.
"I pray that we can all, in time, come through this challenging situation following the accident and I am looking forward to the day I can get my boy back on the track," Louw wrote in his statement. "I am still in shock following the heart-breaking events that occurred last week and my thoughts and prayers are with both of the families involved."
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