PRETORIA- South African police have charged Olympic amputee sprint star Oscar Pistorius with the Valentine's Day murder of his glamorous model girlfriend, but played down reports she was mistaken for a burglar.
"I can confirm that a suspect has been charged, he has been charged with murder," Lieutenant Colonel Katlego Mogale said.
Twenty-six-year-old Pistorius — known globally as "Blade Runner" because of his carbon fibre prostheses — will spend the night in jail before appearing in court today to answer charges of killing 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp at his upscale Pretoria home.
The blonde was shot four times in the early hours of Thursday morning and died on the scene. A nine-millimetre pistol was found at the scene.
Police have opposed bail for Pistorius, who is the only suspect in the case.
The sprinter became an international celebrity during last year's London Olympics, where he became the first double-amputee to compete in a Summer Games.
His arrest has rocked South Africa, where he had been considered a national hero.
"Obviously we are shocked," his father Henke Pistorius said. "He is with the police and the matter is in the hands of the authorities. Our thoughts are with the family of the woman involved in this tragedy," he said.
Steenkamp, once a FHM magazine cover girl, was described as "the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth" by Sarit Tomlins of her management agency.
Meanwhile, police poured cold water on media reports that she had been mistaken as an intruder.
"We were surprised by allegations that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar," said police spokeswoman Denise Beukes.
She said there was no sign of forced entry at Pistorius's home. "The premises are fairly secure ... This is a fairly secure estate.
"There's previously been incidents of allegations of domestic disputes at the home of the accused."
Beukes said the police were talking to neighbours who heard disturbances earlier in the evening and around the time of the shooting.
Those revelations raised questions about a figure who was publicly adored, but led a colourful private life full of model girlfriends, guns and fast cars.
"There were always rumours attracted to Oscar Pistorius, but most of them I just put down to him being a celebrity," said Kyle Wood, a 25-year-old fellow resident of Silverlakes.
Pistorius has previously spoken of carrying a firearm when faced with a potential threat at home and of visiting a shooting range. Crime is a major problem in South Africa and many people keep weapons at home.
Pistorius is also known as an adrenalin junkie, with a love of speed reflected in a passion for motorbikes.
Four years ago he crashed his boat in a river south of Johannesburg, breaking two ribs, an eye socket and his jaw.