Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee sprinter who become a global sporting hero at last summer’s Olympics, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

Pistorius’ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times early Thursday in Pistorius’ home in Pretoria, South Africa, police said.

A 9 mm pistol was recovered at the scene and Pistorius, 26, was taken into custody. After being questioned by police for several hours, he left the police station wearing a grey hoodie that covered most of his face, accompanied by officers.

He had been scheduled to appear in court later Thursday for a bail hearing, but the appearance was delayed until Friday morning. Police said they would oppose bail.

Several local media outlets had initially reported the shooting may have been accidental, the result of an attempted robbery, or a Valentine’s Day surprise gone wrong. But police insisted none of those reports came from them.

Police spokesperson Brig. Denise Beukes said that Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death and "there is no other suspect involved." They also noted that there had "previously been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius."

"Yes, there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning," Beukes told reporters outside the gated complex.

"We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place."

She refused to elaborate on the other incidents at Pistorius' home.

The charges are a shock to fans of Pistorius, who became known as the "Blade Runner" because of the carbon fibre blades he used as prosthetics when sprinting.

Pistorius had a congenital condition that resulted in the amputation of both his legs below the knee before his first birthday. He became a celebrated paralympic athlete and the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics.

He competed in the 400 metres at the London Games and reached the semi-finals. He also competed on South Africa's 4x400 relay team, which placed eighth. He carried the South African flag at the closing ceremonies, in recognition of his inspiring performance.

“To tell you the truth,” he wrote in his memoir, Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner, “I don’t think of myself as disabled. I have limits, but we all have limits and like anyone else I also have many talents.

“This attitude is integral to how my family approaches life and their philosophy has made me the man I am today, ‘This is Oscar Pistorius, exactly as he should be. Perfect in himself’.”

His girlfriend Steenkamp was a law school graduate and an entrepreneur who worked to empower women. She was to give an inspirational talk Thursday at a Johannesburg School.

She was also a successful model and had been one of FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World two years running.

On Twitter, she tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape. Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to celebrating Valentine's Day on Thursday.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she tweeted. "It should be a day of love for everyone."

South Africa has one of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people in the nation of 50 million killed each day.

United Nations statistics show South Africa has the second-highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, after Colombia. It also has high rates of rape and other assaults, robberies and carjackings.

Recent media interviews with Pistorius revealed he kept an assortment of weapons in his home, which lay behind the gates of a guarded estate.

In a profile published last year, Britain's Daily Mail wrote that one cricket bat and one baseball bat were kept stored behind his bedroom door, while a revolver lay by his bed and a machine gun by the window.

With reports from the Associated Press