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Oscar Pistorius expected back in court today

Slain girlfriend’s family speaks out

South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius in London Aug. 15, 2012. Pistorius arrested early Feb. 14, 2013 for allegedly shooting and killing his girlfriend.

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius in London Aug. 15, 2012. Pistorius arrested early Feb. 14, 2013 for allegedly shooting and killing his girlfriend.

JOHANNESBURG — The family of Oscar Pistorius’s slain girlfriend wants answers, her mother told a Johannesburg newspaper, as South Africans braced to hear why prosecutors believe a national hero murdered the model who was shot multiple times.

June Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, told The Times in a front page interview published Monday: ‘‘Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?’’

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‘‘Just like that she is gone,’’ the newspaper quoted her as saying in what it described as an emotional telephone interview. ‘‘In the blink of an eye and a single breath, the most beautiful person who ever lived is no longer here.’’

Pistorius, who remains in custody in a red-brick, one-story police station in Pretoria, is set to return to court Tuesday for the start of his bail hearing. It will be the first opportunity for the prosecution to describe evidence police gathered against the 26-year-old double-amputee runner and the reasons he was charged with murder. Prosecutors allege the killing was premeditated.

Pistorius’s family denies he committed murder though they have not addressed whether he shot her.

When word first emerged about the killing there was speculation in the local media that Steenkamp had been mistaken for an intruder in Pistorius’s home. Police have said that was not something they were considering.

In an e-mail to the Associated Press Monday, Pistorius’s longtime coach said he believes the killing was an accident. ‘‘I pray that we can all, in time, come through this challenging situation following the accident and I am looking forward to the day I can get my boy back on the track,’’ Ampie Louw wrote in his statement. ‘‘I am still in shock following the heart-breaking events that occurred last week and my thoughts and prayers are with both of the families involved.’’

Pistorius’s top sponsor, Nike,­ said in a statement to the AP on Monday that it ‘‘has no plans for Oscar Pistorius in upcoming campaigns.’’ Another of Pistorius’s major sponsors, eyewear maker Oakley, suspended its contract with him.

While Pistorius goes to court, Steenkamp’s funeral will also be held Tuesday in her hometown of Port Elizabeth on South Africa’s southern coast, her family said. It is to be a private ceremony at a local crematorium, closed to the public and media.

‘‘We’re just taking things one day at a time,’’ Reeva Steenkamp’s brother Adam Steenkamp said outside the family home. ‘‘But at the moment it’s family coming together and the one person who would be the strongest, who held us all together, is unfortunately not here anymore — and that’s my sister.’’

A 29-year-old blonde model, law graduate, and reality TV contestant, Reeva Steenkamp died last week of multiple gunshot wounds inside Pistorius’s house in a gated community in the eastern suburbs of the capital, Pretoria.

Police said they arrived in the predawn hours of Thursday — Valentine’s Day — to find paramedics trying to revive Steenkamp and said that she had been shot four times. A 9 mm pistol was recovered from the scene. Pistorius was arrested and charged with murder the same day.

Prosecutors said in Pistorius’s first court appearance Friday that they would pursue a more serious premeditated murder charge against the Olympian and world’s most high-profile disabled athlete.

Arnold Pistorius, Oscar’s uncle, said the prosecution’s own case would show there was no murder. ‘‘We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation,’’ he said, ‘‘and that the state’s own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or indeed any murder at all.’’

The bail hearing, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, will be the first time both the prosecutors and defense will show their hands about the evidence involved in the killing, said Stephen Tuson, an adjunct law professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

‘‘There will kind of be a little trial within a trial,’’ Tuson said of the start of a court case that will likely grip South Africa and much of the world — possibly for years.

Pistorius has been in custody in Brooklyn police station in Pretoria since Friday.

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