The uncle of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius said Saturday that the runner, who overcame physical disabilities to become a national icon in his native South Africa, was “numb with shock, as well as grief” after the shooting death of model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Prosecutors on Friday accused Pistorius of the “premeditated” murder of his girlfriend.
“As you can imagine, our entire family is devastated, we are in a state of total shock – firstly about the tragic death of Reeva who we had all got to know well and care for deeply over the last few months,” Arnold Pistorius said on Saturday, speaking to reporters at his home in Pretoria. The statement was later released by Pistorius’ agent.
“All of us saw at firsthand how close she had become to Oscar during that time and how happy they were,” the uncle said in the family’s first on-camera, in-person statement since the incident. “They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time.”
The family “strongly refutes” any charges of murder against Pistorius, his uncle said. “We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegations and that the state’s own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or indeed any murder at all.”
An emotional Pistorius, 26, appeared in court on Friday accompanied by several family members. He at times appeared confused and sobbed during the hearing.
“Take it easy. Come, take a seat,” Magistrate Desmond Nair told the athlete, who was born without a fibula in both legs, according to Reuters.
Pistorius was formally charged on Friday, and is slated to appear for a bail hearing next week. The court rejected an application by the media to broadcast the proceedings.
The charges were “disputed in the strongest terms,” a statement released by Pistorius’ agent after the hearing read: “[Pistorius] 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."
Steenkamp, a model, law graduate, and aspiring television star, was found dead on Valentine’s Day of gunshot wounds in Pistorius’ home in a gated community. The model, 30, was shot four times, and authorities told the Associated Press that a 9mm pistol was recovered at the residence.
Speaking on NBC’s TODAY earlier this week, Steenkamp’s publicist described the incident as a “huge loss for everyone and too shocking for words.”