Oscar Pistorius "sobbed uncontrollably" at a South African court hearing on Friday morning as prosecutors made clear their intention to claim the track superstar killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a premeditated murder.
According to numerous news outlets, Pistorius, who could spend the rest of his life in prison, wept and shook visibly for much of his appearance in a Pretoria magistrates court, where chief magistrate Desmond Nair postponed until Tuesday the process that will decide what charges the 26-year-old will face.
That means Pistorius will spend the weekend behind bars, although he will be kept – at his own request – at a Brooklyn police station in Pretoria rather than a local prison as would be the norm in murder cases.
On Tuesday, arguments will be heard as to the severity of the murder charge he will face, as well as submissions regarding his application for bail.
The Associated Press reported that Pistorius' family and management released a statement Friday from London that said, "The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms." The statement went on to say that Pistorius "would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva."
Numerous eyewitnesses at the court told how Pistorius was unable to control his emotions even before the proceedings began and he had to be consoled by his father Henke and brother Carl while deliberations took place.
"He broke down several times," South African journalist Barry Bateman said in a report to a Cape Town radio station. "He couldn't control his emotions. Most of the time had his head down. You could see him clench his jaw. He would collapse into his hands sobbing and it was audible, he was gasping. When he fell down his father would lean forward and put his hand on his back."
The shooting of Steenkamp in the early hours of Thursday morning has caused a media frenzy in South Africa, with Friday morning's Beeld newspaper claiming that the aspiring television personality and model had been shot through the bathroom door of Pistorius' luxury home in the Silver Lakes gated complex, and that police and security had been called to the property earlier in the evening following a disturbance.
[Related: Nike pulls chilling Pistorius ad]
In the hours immediately following the shooting it was originally reported that a police captain had insisted the shooting was an accident and that Pistorius had mistakenly believed Steenkamp, 29, was an intruder. According to the Associated Press, police initially stated Steenkamp is 30 and have not yet explained the discrepancy.
The Associated Press also reported that police said an autopsy on Steenkamp's body had been conducted but that no results or details would be published.
The runner kept a 9mm pistol, a machine gun, a baseball bat and a cricket bat in his bedroom as a means of personal protection due to South Africa's high crime and violence rates, according to an eyewitness account from British writer Jonathan McEvoy.
Pistorius, known as the Blade Runner and the first double amputee to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympics, enjoyed a popularity in his homeland that bordered on cult status and the story of his career – winning a legal battle against international athletics authorities to be allowed to run against able-bodied opponents – ensured Courtroom C was packed with spectators and media representatives.
Pistorius left Boschkop police station Friday morning in a 10-strong police convoy accompanied by his sister Aimee and his lawyer. Wearing a gray suit, he used a dark charcoal jacket to cover his head as he arrived at the court at 9 a.m. local time but had to wait nearly two hours for his case to be called.
Several companies pulled commercials and advertisements featuring Pistorius. Billboards with his likeness were taken down as this case totally overshadowed coverage of the previous evening's state of the union address by President Jacob Zuma.
Before the case was heard Friday morning, a court official asked members of Pistorius' family to provide money so that the runner could purchase a toasted sandwich.
Once inside the court, though, Pistorius was "clearly traumatized," according to his legal counsel and almost collapsed to his knees when prosecutor Gerrie Nel uttered the phrase "premeditated murder."
Pistorius appeared to take some comfort from the presence of his family, but when they rushed toward him at the conclusion of the hearing he was led away by an official, off to an immediate future that involves a cell and his own thoughts, while speculation on a tragedy that has become a national media circus rages on.
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