PRETORIA, South Africa — Olympic superstar Oscar Pistorius wept in court Friday as prosecutors said they’ll pursue a charge of premeditated murder against him for killing his model girlfriend, meaning the man who once inspired the world could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Pistorius’s family and London-based management issued a statement disputing the murder charge he now faces for the slaying of Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete himself initially appeared solemn and collected in his first court appearance, but later sobbed loud enough for his cries to be heard over the more than 100 spectators gathered for the hearing.
His tears even drew the attention of Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir, who at one point simply said: ‘‘Take it easy.’’
The double-amputee athlete’s arrest stunned South Africa, which awoke the morning of Valentine’s Day to hear that Steenkamp had been shot to death at Pistorius’s home in a gated community in an eastern suburb of Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Police said investigators recovered a 9 mm pistol from the home.
In Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Friday, throngs of photographers, videographers and journalists besieged the brick-walled Courtroom C, where Pistorius appeared. Nasir’s first ruling in the matter focused on the press: He dismissed requests from a private television station and the state broadcaster to air the hearing live.
Nasir also ordered that no photographs be taken while court was in session. That left kneeling photographers less than a 3 feet from Pistorius, who was crying uncontrollably, to simply stare at a man some previously photographed sprinting on his famous carbon-fiber blades. Pistorius’s brother, Carl, and his father, Henke, reached out at separate times to comfort him as he sat in the dock.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court he would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius for allegedly killing Steenkamp, a 30-year-old model known for her vamping, bikini pictures in men’s magazines and appearances in commercials.
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 Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.
Pistorius entered no plea at the hearing and his family left quickly, without speaking to journalists who followed them outside. In a statement later Friday, his family and management questioned the criminal charge the 26-year-old athlete faces.
‘‘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.’’
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’s nickname given for his running blades.
Others focused their attention on Pistorius, who is fascinated by fast cars, cage fighting, and firearms.
At the defense’s request, the chief magistrate delayed Pistorius’s bail hearing until Tuesday. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to keep Pistorius in a police holding cell, rather than transfer him to prison like most normal suspects.