PRETORIA, South Africa -- Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa, a stunning development in the life of a national hero known as the Blade Runner for his high-tech artificial legs.
Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times in the predawn hours in the house, in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria, police said.
Hours later after undergoing police questioning, Pistorius left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face. His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until today to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.
South Africans were shocked at the killing. The Star newspaper printed a special afternoon edition Thursday that hawkers sold in the streets of Johannesburg, carrying the headline: "OSCAR ARRESTED: GIRLFRIEND KILLED.''
While Pistorius captured the nation's attention with his Olympic dreams, police said there was a history of problems involving him.
There have "previously been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius,'' said police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and "there is no other suspect involved.''
"Yes, there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning,'' Beukes told reporters outside the gated complex where Pistorius lived. "We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.''
Pistorius' father, Henke, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, only saying "we all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady's parents.''
Neither Pistorius' agent Peet van Zyl nor coach Ampie Louw could be reached while Pistorius' own cellphone went straight to an answerphone service.
Pistorius' former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hopes it was "just a tragic accident.''
"No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive,'' Giannini told the AP in Italy. "Whenever he was tired or nervous he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent.''
Gianni said he believed that Pistorius had been dating Steenkamp for "a few months.''
"I know he had more than one flirt over the last year,'' Giannini said.
Paolo Urbani, the mayor of the Italian town of Gemona where Pistorius had a training base and prepared for the London Olympics from said he is shocked as Pistorius was "a delightful person.''
"The news shocked not only me personally but also the whole of Gemona and the region,'' Urbani said. "It come[s] as a huge shock to everyone who knew him. I was woken up this morning by a phone call from his general manager, who called me to let me know so that I didn't find out about it from the news.''
Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police. Several local media outlets had initially reported that the shooting may have been accidental.
"It would be very premature and very irresponsible of me to say what actually has happened,'' Beukes said. "There have been allegations. We are not sure.''
Beukes also said there had been previous incidents and "allegations of a domestic nature'' at the home of the Olympic star and double-amputee runner, who is one of South Africa's and the world's most famous sportsmen and made history at the London Games last year by being the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympics.
"I'm not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents [at Pistorius' home],'' Beukes said.