Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is “numb with shock, as well as grief” after the shooting to death of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in South Africa, the runner’s uncle said on Saturday, as his family “strongly refutes” charges that he planned to kill her.

Arnold Pistorius spoke to The Associated Press and two other South African journalists about his nephew’s arrest in the killing of Steenkamp, who was shot four times on Valentine’s Day. Arnold Pistorius spoke to reporters at his home in the eastern 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.

Arnold Pistorious said: “After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder. 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.”

The track star’s arrest in the killing of the 29-year-old Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius, dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech prosthetics and revered for overcoming his disability to compete in the London Games, was a national hero. She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn on Thursday by police in Pistorius’ upscale home in a gated community in Pretoria. 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 this coming Tuesday.

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 last year.

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

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