OSCAR Pistorius will appear in a Pretoria court this afternoon after South African police opened a murder case against the Paralympic athlete.

Pistorius, 26, is alleged to have killed his 30-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who died of gunshot wounds at an address in the city this morning.

Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Katlego Mogale said: "Currently we have opened the case of murder against a 26-year-old suspect."

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He will be appearing in Pretoria State Court this afternoon.

Mogale said police were called following a shooting at around 0300 local time (0100 GMT) at a townhouse complex in the Silver Lakes district of Pretoria.

A 9mm pistol was recovered and the woman's body was removed from the scene.

Pistorius was arrested at the scene as investigations began.

Earlier, Mogale said: "I can confirm that a woman has been fatally wounded in a shooting at Oscar Pistorius' house. A 26-year-old man has been taken into custody."

Police responded quickly to an emergency call from a neighbour in the early hours but were unable to save the woman.

Double amputee Pistorius has emerged as the biggest star in the Paralympic movement and is known as the Blade Runner because of the ground-breaking prosthetics he uses when competing.

He won two gold medals and one silver at the London 2012 Paralympics, having made history weeks earlier by competing in the Olympic Games for his country, becoming the first amputee sprinter to do so. He competed in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the Olympics.

The Johannesburg-born athlete, who was born without fibulas in his legs and had the limbs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, had to win a legal battle over his blades with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 2008 for the right to compete in able-bodied competition.

The International Paralympic Committee expressed sorrow on hearing of the incident.

In a statement, it said: "Following the news of the alleged shooting incident involving South African athlete Oscar Pistorius this morning, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will not be passing any comment on the case at this time.

"This is a police matter, with a formal investigation currently under way. Therefore it would be inappropriate for the IPC to comment on this incident until the official police process has concluded.

"The IPC would like to offer its deepest sympathy and condolences to all families involved in this case."

Pistorius is a hugely popular athlete and a number of British track and field stars reacted to this mornings events.

Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis wrote on Twitter: "Woken up to the horrendous news about Oscar Pistorius mistakenly shooting his girlfriend. What an awful tragedy."

Iwan Thomas, Britain's former number one 400 metres sprinter, wrote: "I am in total shock to hear the news about athlete and friend Oscar, my thoughts are with him and all involved. Thats all I have to say."

Katharine Merry, who won bronze at 400m at the Sydney Olympics, said of Pistorius: "One of the nicest guys, true gent....omg.....in shock for oscar and this situation. Imagine, just imagine..."

British triple-jumper Phillips Idowu added: "Waking up to extremely sad news about Oscar Pistorius mistakenly shooting his girlfriend. Terrible tragedy, thoughts & prayers with you."

Britain's Paralympic 100m gold medallist Jonnie Peacock did not mention Pistorius by name but in a short Twitter message wrote: "can not believe it...."