The mystery over South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius‘s role in the killing of the model Reeva Steenkamp has deepened amid a series of claims and counter-claims about what happened at his home in Pretoria last week.
South African newspapers reported a series of dramatic revelations about the case, in which Steenkamp was shot four times. Police denied leaking the details and Pistorius’s agent refused to comment.
A police spokeswoman could not explain how the claims emerged but did not deny them. “We are not commenting on anything in the newspapers today as the case is still before the court,” she said. “They are insinuating they got the information from the police. They did not.”
Medupe Simasiku, of the national prosecuting authority, said the alleged leaks did not necessarily affect the court case as “the evidence [published] might be wrong”.
The well-respected City Press newspaper reported that a cricket bat covered in blood was found at Pistorius’s home and is the central piece of evidence against him. Citing sources close to the investigation, the paper said Steenkamp’s skull was crushed and police requested Pistorius undergo drug tests.
City Press also reported that Pistorius called his father soon after 3.20am on Thursday and asked him to come to the house. When the family arrived, Pistorius was allegedly carrying Steenkamp down the stairs, her head and arms “dangling”.
“Steenkamp was still breathing and Pistorius tried to resuscitate her in the foyer,” the report continued. “Paramedics and police arrived on the scene and, minutes later, she was declared dead.
“Steenkamp was wearing her nightie at the time. When the police inspected Oscar’s bedroom, they found her overnight bag and iPad on the floor. A holster for a 9mm pistol was found on Oscar’s side of the bed.”
All sources dismissed the theory that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp for a burglar, the paper added. “The sources agreed that the state had a ‘rock-solid’ case against the popular athlete.”
Peet van Zyl, Pistorius’s agent, said he had “not read a lot of the media” on Sunday so could not comment. He added that the runner had received “overwhelming support” from fans all over the world.
Later, van Zyl confirmed he had cancelled all of the athlete’s commitments, including a race in the UK, so he could “concentrate on the legal proceedings”.
The eNews Channel Africa presented a narrative in which CCTV footage showed Steenkamp arriving at the house at 6pm on Wednesday. It said neighbours claimed they heard arguments, and investigators believed the couple were together in bed at one point.
It was thought Steenkamp moved to the bathroom and was shot through the closed door, possibly at close range, the channel reported. Pistorius picked her up and carried her downstairs. He called a family member but not the police, who were alerted instead by neighbours.
Pistorius, 26, who last year became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics, remains in police custody, facing a charge of murder.
On Sunday he was visited by a pastor, AJ Wilson, who told Reuters television: “The (police) colonel told him that I have come to pray with him. He just cried and we all cried together.”
Pistorius is due to apply for bail at a court hearing in Pretoria on Tuesday, the same day that Steenkamp, 29, is due to be cremated at a private funeral.
Her father, Barry Steenkamp, told the Mail on Sunday that the family was struggling to come to terms with the death, but added: “There is no hatred in our hearts.”
He said of Pistorius: “He must be going through things that we don’t know about. We ask the Lord every day to help us find a reason why this should happen to Reeva. She was the most beautiful, kind girl in the world.”
Pistorius’s father, Henke, said he had “zero doubt” that Steenkamp’s death was a tragic accident. He told the Sunday Telegraph: “When you are a sportsman, you act even more on instinct. It’s instinct – things happen and that’s what you do.”
He added: “When you wake up in the middle of the night – and crime is so endemic in South Africa – what do you do if somebody is in the house? Do you think it’s one of your family? Of course you don’t.”
A close friend of Pistorius told how the athlete phoned him moments after Steenkamp was shot. “Oscar called me at 3.55am saying that Reeva had been shot,” Justin Divaris told the Sunday People. “I said to him: ‘What are you talking about? I don’t understand you.’ He then repeated himself: ‘There has been a terrible accident, I shot Reeva.’
“Next thing his neighbour picked up the phone and told me it was true and told me to get to Oscar’s home. I was in total shock. I asked the neighbour: ‘Is she OK?’ Did the gun go off by accident?’ She replied: ‘No. She’s not OK. You need to get here.'”
By David Smith at The Guardian