Fam­ily speaks up

Olympian’s un­cle breaks si­lence on death of Reeva Steenkamp

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY GER­ALD IM­RAY AND JON GAM­BRELL

Os­car Pis­to­rius’s fam­ily de­nies pros­e­cu­tors’ claims that he killed his girl­friend.

pre­to­ria, south africa — Olympic ath­lete Os­car Pis­to­rius is “numb with shock, as well as grief ” af­ter the shoot­ing death of his model girl­friend at his home in South Africa, the run­ner’s un­cle said Satur­day, as his fam­ily strongly de­nied pros­e­cu­tors’ claims that he killed her.

Arnold Pis­to­rius first spoke to re­porters at his home in South Africa’s cap­i­tal, Pre­to­ria, about his nephew’s ar­rest in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp on the morn­ing of Valen­tine’s Day.

In the state­ment, the fam­ily also came out strongly against pros­e­cu­tors seek­ing to up­grade the charge against Pis­to­rius to one of pre­med­i­tated mur­der, which car­ries a sen­tence of life in prison.

“We have no doubt there is no sub­stance to the al­le­ga­tion and that the state’s own case, in­clud­ing its own foren­sic ev­i­dence, strongly re­futes any pos­si­bil­ity of a pre­med­i­tated mur­der or mur­der as such,” Arnold Pis­to­rius said.

The track star’s ar­rest in the killing of 29-year-old Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pis­to­rius, a dou­ble be­low-the-knee am­putee.known for his high-tech pros­thet­ics, was a na­tional hero and revered for over­com­ing his dis­abil­ity to com­pete in Lon­don’s Olympic Games. Steenkamp was dis­cov­ered in a pool of blood be­fore dawn Thurs­day by po­lice called to Pis­to­rius’s home in a gated com­mu­nity in Pre­to­ria. Au­thor­i­ties said she had been shot four times, and a 9mm pis­tol was re­cov­ered at the home.

Pis­to­rius is be­ing held at a po­lice sta­tion pend­ing a bail hear­ing Tues­day.

There will be a va­ri­ety of hear­ings be­fore Pis­to­rius, 26, could go on trial. In South Africa, there are no ju­ries, so a judge ul­ti­mately would de­cide his guilt or in­no­cence. At an ini­tial hear­ing Fri­day, Pis­to­rius sobbed and held his head in his hands at times. He has yet to en­ter a plea in the case.

The fam­ily de­nial that Pis­to­rius com­mit­ted mur­der doesn’t neces- sar­ily mean that they say he didn’t shoot her, as mur­der is a le­gal term. Ini­tial spec­u­la­tion im­me­di­ately af­ter the shoot­ing Thurs­day sug­gested that it could have been ac­ci­den­tal, although po­lice say they don’t be­lieve that.

Arnold Pis­to­rius did not dis­cuss the cir­cum­stances of the shoot­ing but said that his nephew and Steenkamp had be­come very close since they started dat­ing in Novem­ber.

“They had plans to­gether, and Os­car was hap­pier in his pri­vate life than he had been for a long time,” the un­cle said.

Pis­to­rius re­mains very close with his un­cle, a man he once lived with as a teenager.

“Words can­not ad­e­quately de­scribe our feel­ings,” his un­cle said.

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