JOHANNESBURG—South African police have found a bloodied cricket bat at the home of track star Oscar Pistorius, who has been charged with murdering his model girlfriend, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Olympic and Paralympic athlete was charged on Friday with the Valentine’s Day murder of 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead at his luxury Pretoria home.
Pistorius’s family denies he intentionally killed the blonde covergirl, with his father telling a newspaper he had “zero doubt” his son had mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder and his 89-year old grandmother telling AFP the killing was accidental.
The family has said the 26-year-old, who is being held until a bail hearing on Tuesday, is “numb with shock as well as grief” over Steenkamp’s death.
South Africa’s independent City Press newspaper quoted police sources close to the investigation saying that the cricket bat had been found and that Steenkamp’s skull had been “crushed.”
“There was lots of blood on the bat,” one source said.
Police are investigating whether the bat was used to assault Steenkamp, who was shot four times in the early hours of Thursday, or if she may have used it to defend herself, the newspaper said.
“The suspicion is that the first shot, in the bedroom, hit her in the hip. She then ran and hid herself in the toilet… He fired three more shots,” a police source told City Press.
Authorities have rejected suggestions that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and on Sunday police spokesman Neville Malila refused to comment on the reports of the cricket bat.
“I dont know where they got it from, but they didn’t get it from any official source in the police,” Malila told AFP. “We want to give the investigators an opportunity to investigate and we will make an official statement after the bail application.”
The newspaper described the case against Pistorius as “rock-solid.”
Other reports suggested there had been a fight between the two lovers that had spilled over from Wednesday night, when neighbors called security guards complaining about a “commotion” inside the Pistorius home.
The British Sunday People said a sobbing Pistorius had phoned his friend Justin Divaris around 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Thursday telling him “My baba, I’ve killed my baba (baby in Afrikaans). God take me away.”
Pistorius was a national icon who inspired people around the world when he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympic Games last year.
He bail hearing on Tuesday will come the same day a funeral will be held for his slain girlfriend. He faces a life sentence if convicted of premeditated murder.
His father, Henke Pistorius, 59, was quoted by Britain’s Sunday Telegraph as saying the family had “zero doubt” his son shot Steenkamp on instinct after mistaking her for an intruder.
“When you are a sportsman, you act even more on instinct,” he said. “It’s instinct—things happen and that’s what you do.”
When contacted by AFP, the father denied speaking to the Sunday Telegraph and refused to provide any further details. The newspaper’s reporter Aislinn Laing confirmed to AFP she had spoken to the father on Saturday.
Echoing the family’s line, Pistorius’s 89-year-old grandmother also indicated the shooting had been accidental.
“I know it was a mistake anybody can make,” Gertie Pistorius told AFP. “I have got my trust in my (grandson) and I have got my trust in the case, and I am sure things will go the right way,” she said in a telephone interview from a retirement home in Pretoria.
Police have dismissed the intruder theory, noting that there had been several previous domestic incidents at Pretorius’s home.
City Press said Steenkamp was wearing a negligee at the time of the killing and that the bed was rumpled.
Pistorius, who broke down sobbing in his first court appearance on Friday, has built up a powerful team of lawyers, medical specialists and public relations experts for his defense.
Stuart Higgins, a former editor of British tabloid The Sun, whose lengthy list of clients include British Airways, Chelsea FC and Manchester United football club, will be handling public relations in the case.
One of the lawyers, Kenny Oldwage, acted for the driver in a 2010 accident that killed former president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchild Zenani. The driver was acquitted.