South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius has been charged with one count of murder at a court in Pretoria.

It follows the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who was found dead at the athlete's home in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The 26-year-old sat with his head bowed when he was brought before the court this morning and broke down in tears after being charged.

His father Henke, brother Carl and sister Aimee gathered in court to support the athlete.

Chief magistrate Desmond Nair told him: "Take it easy. Come take a seat."

The hearing came after a two-hour delay while Pistorius' lawyers objected to the scrum of local and international reporters packed into the courtroom.

A bail hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, with police expected to oppose the application.

The hearing was adjourned and Pistorius will be held at a local police station until his next court appearance.

In a statement, the sportsman's agent said the athlete disputes the murder charge "in the strongest possible terms".

Ms Steenkamp's body was discovered at around 3am yesterday, after neighbours reported hearing screams and gun shots coming from the athlete's home.

South African media reported that the model was shot four times through a bathroom door at Pistorius' home.

A 9mm pistol was recovered from his two-storey house in the middle of a heavily guarded gated complex in the northern outskirts of the South African capital.

He was held overnight at Pretoria's Boschkop police station after undergoing medical and forensic examinations.

The arrest of the Olympic and Paralympic athlete stunned a nation that reveres him as a hero, who triumphed over adversity to compete with able-bodied athletes at the highest levels of sport.

Shock in South Africa

Initial reports suggested he may have mistaken Ms Steenkamp for an intruder, but police said there had been previous "domestic" incidents at the house.

South African newspapers plastered the killing across their front pages, relegating a State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma in parliament to a distant second.

The coverage reflected shock and dismay at the fall of a sporting hero who commanded rare respect on all sides of South Africa's racial divides.

"Golden Boy Loses Shine" ran a front page headline in the Sowetan, beside a picture of Pistorius, head bowed in a grey hooded tracksuit being led away from a police station.

Callers to morning radio shows expressed shock at the death of Ms Steenkamp, who had been due to give a talk at a Johannesburg school this week about violence against women.

Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metres semi-finals in London 2012.

He had become one of the biggest names in world athletics.