updated 02/15/2013 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/15/2013 AT 12:05 PM ET
After his tearful morning in court in which prosecutors said they would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Oscar Pistorius for allegedly killing his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, his family issued a statement reacting to the news.
“The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms,” the statement read, without elaborating.
The statement also said Pistorius wanted 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,” the statement read.
Pistorius, 26, entered no plea at the hearing and his family left quickly, without speaking to journalists who followed them outside. Police said Friday that investigators conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp’s body. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.
South Africa continues to question itself over what to think about the shooting, with local newspaper headlines veering from the lurid to “Blade gunner?” on Friday morning, playing on Pistorius’ nickname given for his running blades. The nation of 50 million has one of the world’s highest rates of shooting deaths, behind only Colombia. South Africa as whole recently recoiled at the brutal gang rape and attack that killed a 17-year-old girl and many wore black Friday to demonstrate against the high levels of violence against women in the country.
Others focused their attention on Pistorius, who is fascinated by fast cars, cage fighting and firearms. He crashed a speedboat in February 2009, breaking his nose, jaw and several ribs and damaging an eye socket. He later required 180 stitches to his face. Witnesses said he had been drinking, and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they did not do a blood test on Pistorius.
His love life, the fodder of gossip columns in the country, also saw turmoil. In November, Pistorius was involved in an altercation over a woman with a local coal mining millionaire, South African media reported.
Gianni Merlo, who co-authored the 2009 biography Blade Runner with Pistorius, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday from Italy that Pistorius once drove out in the middle of the night to see his first love after a fight. Pistorius crashed his car when he fell asleep behind the wheel, though Merlo said it showed his devotion.
However, he said Pistorius once threw a friend’s girlfriend out of his house, prompting police to investigate and take him in for questioning.
“He explained that this was a kind of [plot] against him, planned against him,” Merlo said.