BLADE runner Oscar Pistorius offered his “deepest sympathies” to the family of his dead girlfriend as he denied her murder in the “strongest terms”.
The world’s best-known Paralympian was arrested early on St Valentine’s Day after Reeva Steenkamp, 30, was shot dead at his exclusive South African home.
He broke down in tears as he appeared in court yesterday accused of her premeditated murder at the luxury gated Silver Lakes Golf Estate in Pretoria.
Pistorius, 26, sat with his head bowed when he was brought before magistrates and began to sob, covering his face with his hands, as the charge against him was read out.
Chief magistrate Desmond Nair told him: “Take it easy. Come take a seat.”
The gold-medal winner, who earned his Blade Runner nickname because of his prosthetic racing legs, was supported by his father Henke, brother Carl and sister Aimee as prosecutors said they would pursue a charge of premeditated murder.
His family and management company later issued a staunch denial of the allegation on behalf of the track superstar.
“Firstly, and most importantly, all our thoughts today must be with the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp,” they 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: “Oscar Pistorius has made history as an Olympic and Paralympic sportsman and has been an inspiration to others the world over.
“He has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva.
“He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received – but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family, regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy.”
Pistorius was met by a media frenzy as he arrived at the packed court dressed in a grey suit and blue tie. Earlier, he attempted to obscure his identity, covering his face with a jacket and note pad as he was driven into the precincts.
During the hearing before magistrates, lawyers representing the athlete asked to postpone an application for bail until next week to “allow time for their own investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy”.
Pistorius’s arrest triggered shock across the globe and prompted rumours that he might have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder in what could have been a St Valentine’s Day surprise gone wrong.
But police swiftly distanced themselves from the suggestion and said there had been previous incidents of a “domestic nature” at Pistorius’s property.
Miss Steenkamp’s body was discovered at around 3am after neighbours reported hearing screams and gunshots from the sprinter’s home.
According to one newspaper, the model was shot four times through a bathroom door.
Officers said she was shot in the head and upper body. They recovered a 9mm pistol from the scene.
Since then, there has been heated speculation over what occurred in the early hours of the morning. A picture has emerged of a volatile man who was said to sleep with a revolver by his bedside and a machine gun by his window amid fears for his safety.
He began dating Miss Steenkamp, a law graduate, in November. She had apparently been looking forward to St Valentine’s Day.
Pistorius made history at the London 2012 Olympics by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete in the Games, running in the 400m and 4x400m relay.
His sponsorship deals – with firms including BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler – are thought to be worth as much as £1.3m a year.
Sports giant Nike, along with most of his sponsors, have said they will not make any decisions until the police investigation is completed.
Pistorius will be held at a local police station until his next court appearance. A bail hearing is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.