South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius has been arrested by police for reportedly shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, dead after supposedly mistaking her for a burglar. Pistorius, aka “Blade Runner,” is a double amputee and is the only disabled person to ever compete in the Olympics.
Here’s what you need to know about Oscar Pistorius and the Valentine’s Day murder.
1. Oscar Pistorius Allegedly Shot His Girlfriend Dead
Police have confirmed that a 30-year-old woman was shot dead Thursday around 3 a.m. at the Silverlakes home of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa. News of the tragedy was first reported on its website by Beeld Newspaper. The woman is believed to be Pistorius’ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot four times in the head, the chest and the arm.
A spokeswoman for Pretoria police could not confirm the identities of those involved.
“I can confirm that a woman has been fatally wounded in a shooting at Oscar Pistorius’ house,” she said. “A 26-year-old man has been taken into custody. The incident happened at 3 a.m. We received a call and attended the scene. The call did not come from the man in custody but from another person. Currently there is an inquiry into what happened.”
2. He Mistook Her For a Burglar
South African journalist Kalay Maistry told Sky News that it seems as though Pistorius mistook his girlfriend for an burglar when she went to his house in the middle of the night to surprise him.
“I think what this actually highlights is the level of fear ordinary South Africans have,” Maistry said. “This is a man who has gone to bed, it’s an innocent surprise from a girlfriend… and the moment he thinks someone is trying to break in he grabs his gun.
3. It May Have Been a Valentine’s Day Surprise Gone Wrong
Steenkamp may have been sneaking into Pistorius’ house for a Valentine’s day surprise. On Wednesday, she joyfully Tweeted about the holiday.
— Reeva Steenkamp (@reevasteenkamp) February 13, 2013
4. He Was Arrested
Pistorius was taken into custody while police investigated the crime scene, taking statements from neighbors. In a court appearance on Friday, prosecutors accused the athlete of “premeditated murder.” A statement on his website said that Pistorius’ will dispute the accusation.
“Oscar Pistorius has appeared in court here in Pretoria this morning formally charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp,” the statement said. “The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms.”
5. Pistorius is a South African Paralympic Star
Pistorius was born with fibular hemimelia in both of his legs and when his was 11 months old, they were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles. Despite his disability, he remained very athletic throughout his early years by participating in rugby, water polo, tennis and wrestling. In 2004, he raced in the Summer Paralympics in Athens and placed third overall. He went on to win the final with a world record time of 21.97 seconds and even beat runners with just one amputation. His career took off from then on.
6. Reeva Steenkamp Was a Former Model
Reeva Steenkamp was known as a FHM cover girl and the face of Avon cosmetics in South Africa. She and Pistorius had been together for two months.
“She was the sweetest human being and an absolute angel on earth,” Steenkamp’s publicist said. “It’s a huge loss. She was a talented and beautiful girl. They had been together for a couple of months and it had been an absolutely healthy relationship.”
Steenkamp was actually scheduled to give a speech about domestic violence on the day she was murdered. She would speak on the subject, pulling from her own experience in an abusive relationship eight yeat ago. Reeva’s publicist Sarit Tomlinson, who had notes for the speech, said it was about “empowerment and inspiration and what inspires you and how to follow your dreams.”
7. Pistorius is Widely Known as the Blade Runner
The Paralympic star is known as the Blade Runner for the blades he wears to run and said to be the “fastest man on no legs.”
8. He is the Only Disabled Person to Compete in the Olympics
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympic Games
9. South Africa Has Some of the World’s Highest Crime Rates
South Africa has some of the world’s highest crime rates with an average of as much as 50 murders a day. Many homeowners carry a weapon for self defense against intruders. Pistorius revealed in an interview in 2012 that he kept a pistol next to his bed and a machine gun by his window. A 9mm pistol was recovered from the scene.
10. Pistorius Was Charged With Murder
South African police charged Pistorius with murder on Thursday and opposed bail when he appeared in court. Pistorius is currently being held at a Pretoria police station where he will remain until his next court appearance. If the Paralympic all-star is convicted of the murder charge, he faces life in jail.