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Pistorius family denies murder claims

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius is "numb with shock as well as grief" after the shooting death of his girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner's uncle said yesterday, as his family strongly denied prosecutors' claims that he murdered her.

Arnold Pistorius spoke about his nephew's arrest in the killing of swimsuit model and law school graduate Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot Thursday morning.

The uncle talked to reporters from the garden of his home in the suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

The statement, the first on camera and directly made in person by Pistorius' family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.

"After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder," Arnold Pistorius said. "We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state's own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or murder as such."

The track star's arrest in the killing of Steenkamp, 29, shocked South Africa, where Pistorius, 26, was a national hero dubbed the "Blade Runner" for his high-tech carbon fiber running blades and revered for overcoming his disability to compete at the London Olympics.

Steenkamp was discovered before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius' upscale home in a gated community. Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9-mm pistol was recovered at the home.

Pistorius remains held at a police station pending a bail hearing Tuesday.

Police have already said they'll oppose Pistorius being released before trial. A premeditated murder charge also makes it more difficult for his defense team to get bail.

Yesterday afternoon, Pistorius' lawyers visited the police station in Pretoria where the athlete is being held. His younger sister Aimee, who stood alongside Arnold Pistorius when he made his statement, was at the police station later.

There will be a variety of hearings before Pistorius could go on trial. In South Africa, there are no juries, so a judge ultimately would decide Pistorius' guilt or innocence, sometimes with the help of two advisers.

Pistorius has yet to enter a plea.

Arnold Pistorius did not discuss the circumstances of the shooting, but said that his nephew and Steenkamp had become very close since they started dating in November.

"They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time," the uncle said.

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