(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Oscar Pistorius’ family and friends are rallying to his defense on Sunday, saying they believe the Paralympic gold medalist’s story that he shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by accident after he mistook her for an intruder.
“When you are a sportsman, you act even more on instinct … it’s instinct — things happen and that’s what you do,” Pistorius’ father Henke Pistorius, 59, told The Telegraph. The 26-year-old athlete, known as the “Blade Runner” because of the carbon-fiber blades he runs on, was charged Friday with premeditated murder.
If convicted, Pistorius could face at least 25 years in jail.
“All of us saw at firsthand how close [Steenkamp] had become to Oscar during that time and how happy they were. They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time,” Pistorius’ uncle Arnold Pistorius said on Saturday.
According to South African newspaper Beeld, Steenkamp was killed nearly two hours after police were called to Pistorius’ home to respond to reports of an argument at the complex.
Police said they have responded to disputes at the sprinter’s residence before, but did not say whether Steenkamp was involved.
The athlete’s best friend said Pistorius called him after the shooting to say “there has been a terrible accident, I shot Reeva,” Justin Divaris told the Sunday People.
While his family insists he is not a murderer, prosecutors disagree.
Police sources told local media that Steenkamp was shot through the bathroom door where she may have been trying to hide to save herself.
Steenkamp’s father, Barry Steenkamp, told the Sunday Mail that they “just need to find some answers.”
“We ask the lord every day to help us find a reason why this should happen to Reeva,” he told the Mail.
Oscar Pistorius will remain in jail until at least his bond hearing next Tuesday.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Holly Yan, David Williams and Steve Almasy, CNN
Euan McKirdy and Natalie L. Gallón, CNN