A representative of South African rugby player Francois Hougaard issued a statement acknowledging and attempting to dispel rumors about the young Vodocom Bulls star's connection to Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius who died in a shooting on Valentine's Day.
“Our client will not comment on any rumours or answer any questions regarding Reeva Steenkamp or Oscar Pistorius at this stage as this is still an ongoing investigation ... this sad ordeal has nothing to do with him,” said Lorinda Voges, a representative from Hougaard's management company Four Elements, via South African newspaper The Times.
Citing unnamed sources described as "close to the team of detectives investigating the killing of model and lawyer Reeva Steenkamp," The Times reported on Monday that Steenkamp's iPad had been recovered at Pistorius' upscale home and that it is believed to contain messages from friends, including Hougaard, that could be introduced as evidence by prosecutors.
Prior to this unconfirmed report, The Mirror described Steenkamp as being in a "close friendship" with Hougaard and detailed a series of Twitter communications between the pair.
Described at the website of Four Elements, as "arguably South Africa's best rugby player and certainly one female fans are keeping a keen eye on," the 24-year-old rugby player re-tweeted an image of himself in a small group with Steenkamp that was shared by an apparent mutual friend after her death.
— Justin Divaris (@daytonagroup) February 15, 2013
According to The Mirror, local speculation that a relationship between Steenkamp and an unnamed rugby player could have played some role in the alleged murder at Pistorius' home spread after it was acknowledged on Twitter by Zelda la Grange, an assistant to Nelson Mandela, and South African journalist Barry Bateman, a correspondent with Eyewitness News Pretoria. Both were merely commenting on the tweet of a third party but their respective profiles may have brought more attention to the speculation.
— Barry Bateman (@barrybateman) February 15, 2013
— Zelda la Grange (@ZeldalaGrangeSA) February 15, 2013
The 26-year-old double-amputee who made history at the London Olympics has remained in police custody since the fatal shooting of Steenkamp at his home last week. He appeared at the Pretoria Magistrates' Court on Friday to be formally charged with one count of murder and openly wept when prosecutors indicated they would pursue a charge of premeditated murder.
The model and actress was shot four times and a 9 mm pistol was recovered at the scene, according to police.
After Pistorius appeared in court on Friday, his family and management issued a statement saying "the alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms."