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A 'broke and broken' Oscar Pistorius: From Olympic hero to jailed killer

From breaking records to prison to house arrest, the young life of the champion killer.

South Africa Pistorius 2012 Summer Olympics, London Source: AP/Press Association Images

AT THE 2012 London Olympics, before 80,000 roaring fans and a constellation of camera flashes, it took Oscar Pistorius 45.44 seconds to become a global icon.

His sprint around the 400m track was the first time in history that a double-amputee had raced at the Olympic Games.

The race capped an Olympian triumph over adversity for Pistorius. His journey from disabled child to world-class athlete seemed to embody the very best of sporting endeavour and the human spirit.

Then on Valentine’s Day in 2013 his achievements were just as quickly demolished.

In the early hours of the morning at his upmarket Pretoria home he shot and killed his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, apparently believing her to be an intruder.

South Africa Pistorius Shooting Source: AP/Press Association Images

For months he sat in a windowless courtroom, and watched as his world was washed away.

His sparkling career was cut short, sponsors dumped him and he was forced to sell his homes amid mounting legal bills.

He was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced in October 2014 to five years in jail. After serving one year of that term, he is now set to be released on parole next week.

The athlete once dubbed the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’, had sobbed, shaken and vomited in the dock as details of his lover’s brutal death were examined in excruciating detail during his trial while the eyes of the world were transfixed.

South Africa Pistorius Trial Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Blade Runner – an epithet earned for his trademark prosthetic legs that powered him to fame – became the Blade Gunner.

“He’s not only broke, but he is broken, there is nothing left,” lawyer Barry Roux told his sentencing hearing.

‘Two Oscars’

Time and again during his trial the court was told about “two Oscars” – one a hero, the other a victim.

But the high-profile proceedings also exposed the 28-year-old’s darker side: offering glimpses of a dangerously volatile man with a penchant for guns, beautiful women and fast cars.

In 2009, he spent a night in jail after allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a party in a case that was settled out of court.

Two years later, he was accused of firing a gun through the sunroof of an ex-girlfriend’s moving car, although Judge Thokozile Masipa found there was not enough evidence to convict him on that charge.

Italy Pistorius Final Steps Source: AP/Press Association Images

Weeks before he shot Steenkamp, he discharged a gun by accident at a Johannesburg restaurant.

“Oscar is certainly not what people think he is,” ex-lover and trial witness Samantha Taylor has said.

Pistorius has long been open about his love for guns. The sprinter slept with a pistol under his bed at his upmarket home in a high security Pretoria estate for fear of burglars.

Once held in Amsterdam after gunpowder residue was detected on his prosthetics, he also took a New York Times journalist interviewing him to a shooting range.

The writer described him driving at 250 kilometres an hour, double the speed limit, and referred to Pistorius as having “a fierce, even frenzied need to take on the world at maximum speed and with minimum caution”.

His passion for motorbikes, adrenalin and speed is well documented. “He likes fast cars. He is just built for speed,” his trainer Jannie Brooks told AFP.

He also crashed his boat on a river, breaking two ribs, an eye socket and his jaw. Empty alcohol bottles were found in the boat.

He once owned two white tigers but sold them to a zoo in Canada when they became too big.

‘Put your legs on’

Born in 1986 in Johannesburg without fibulas (calf bones), his parents decided when he was 11 months old to have his legs amputated below the knee so he could be fitted with prosthetic legs.

This allowed him to play sports unhindered while growing up. He excelled in many, concentrating on running only after fracturing a knee playing rugby.

“It was never made an issue. My mother would say to my brother, ‘You put on your shoes, and Oscar, you put on your legs, then meet me at the car,’” Pistorius said in a 2011 interview.

Paralympic World Cup - Manchester 2005 - Men's 100m - Manchester Regional Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

A middle child whose parents divorced when he was six, he has a problematic relationship with his father, Henke, but is close to his siblings who were at his side in court.

His mother died when he was 15 and the date of her death is tattooed on his arm.

In 2004, just eight months after taking to the track, he smashed the 200m world record at the Athens Paralympics.

Paralympic Games Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Next up was the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games where he took the 100m, 200m and 400m sprint titles and launched a battle to take part in the able-bodied athletics, overcoming arguments that his custom-built carbon-fibre running blades gave him an unfair advantage.

In 2011 he made history by becoming the first amputee to run at the World Championships, where he took silver with South Africa’s 4x400m sprint team.

“You’re not disabled by your disabilities but abled by your abilities,” he told Athlete magazine in an interview that year.

In 2012 he again made history by becoming the first double-amputee to compete at both the Olympics and Paralympics.

“He is the definition of global inspiration,” Time magazine proclaimed in its 2012 list of the world’s most influential people.

Less than a year later, Pistorius featured on the cover with the words “Man, Superman, Gunman”.


Timeline of a Crime


14 February: South African police arrest Pistorius, a Paralympic and Olympic sprinter nicknamed the “Blade Runner”, for the killing of model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, shot four times with one of his guns at his Pretoria house.

South Africa Pistorius Shooting Source: AP/Press Association Images

15 February: Pistorius bursts into tears as he is charged, denying murder “in the strongest terms”.

South Africa Pistorius Shooting Source: AP/Press Association Images

19 February: Pistorius claims in an affidavit that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and feared that someone had sneaked into his home. He fired through a locked bathroom door in what prosecutors term a “premeditated” murder.

The funeral of Reeva Steenkamp is held.

South Africa Pistorius Shooting Source: AP/Press Association Images

20 February: Police searching Pistorius’s home find testosterone and needles in a dresser in his bedroom. Testosterone is on the list of substances banned by the International Olympic Committee. Pistorius’s lawyers poke holes in the prosecution’s murder case, challenging flawed police work.

22 February: Pistorius is granted bail.

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South Africa Pistorius Shooting Source: AP/Press Association Images

11 March: Pistorius is in deep mourning, but is “certainly not suicidal” his family says.


14 February: As he marks one year since the shooting, Pistorius says he is consumed with “sorrow” in a message on the internet.

South Africa Pistorius Source: Denis Farrell

25 February: A judge rules that most of Pistorius’s trial can be broadcast live, but not his testimony.

3 March: The trial opens in Pretoria, before an army of journalists from around the world, with the testimony of a neighbour who tells the court she heard “terrible screams” from a woman and shots.

13 March: Pistorius vomits when a picture of the dead model’s body is flashed on the court’s television screens.

South Africa Pistorius Trial Source: AP/Press Association Images

7-15 April: Pistorius takes the witness stand and begins with a tearful apology to Steenkamp’s family. This is followed by five days of often intense cross-examination, marked by several bouts of tears and breaks in the session. Pistorius steadfastly denies any intention to kill Steenkamp.

South Africa Pistorius Trial Source: AP/Press Association Images

30 June: After a six-week break, a panel of three psychiatrists and a psychologist conclude that Pistorius was not suffering from mental illness.

12 September: Pistorius is found guilty of culpable homicide or manslaughter, but is cleared of murder.

South Africa Pistorius Trial Bystanders and journalists surround a vehicle carrying Oscar Pistorius as he leaves the high court Source: AP/Press Association Images

21 October: Judge Thokozile Masipa sentences Pistorius to a maximum of five years in jail. He is immediately taken to Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison.

South Africa Pistorius Trial Source: AP/Press Association Images

4 November: Prosecutors describe the sentence as “shockingly light and inappropriate” in appeal papers.

On 10 December the judge grants prosecutors leave to appeal against the conviction for culpable homicide rather than murder.


8 June: Prison authorities say Pistorius is scheduled to be freed under house arrest on 21 August.

17 August: Prosecutors file an appeal calling for Pistorius to be convicted of murder.

19 August: The justice ministry puts the decision to free Pistorius on hold saying it had “no legal basis” and had been suspended pending a parole board review.

27 September: Pistorius’ defence team submits its argument fighting a state bid to have Pistorius found guilty of murder.

5 October: Pistorius will have to undergo psychotherapy, the parole review board says, a day after delaying a decision on his release from prison.

15 October: Pistorius will be released on parole on 20 October, the South African department of correctional services says.

- © AFP, 2015

More: After one year in jail, Oscar Pistorius expected to be released and placed under house arrest

It’s jail Oscar, but not as we know it – Pistorius freedom after 10 months makes a mockery of justice

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