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Each day he was at home in Pretoria, Oscar Pistorius drove up to the gates of his guarded estate, waved to the sentries and with a quick, 'thanks cuz' drove one his cherished fast cars into the garage of his bachelor pad.
Usually his caretaker Frankie would be there polishing or washing to keep the place immaculate.
In Oscar's bedroom lay one cricket bat and one baseball bat behind the door, a revolver by his bed and a machine gun by the window.
In this vast and beautiful land of post-apartheid South Africa there is too often a gun at the end of their Rainbow. Of the 30-plus nations I have visited representing the Daily Mail none – even the favela areas of Rio and Sao Paulo and the night streets of Kingston, Jamaica – holds the same fear as South Africa. Violent crime, often confrontational, is a staple of South African life: there are burglaries, carjackings, street muggings, smash-and-grabs and planned attacks on shopping malls.
But most bone-freezing are what are called home invasion robberies. They are preferably carried out when the occupant is in, meaning the alarm is off and the intruders can be told where the valuables are kept.
In 2011, the year I visited Oscar, there were 7,039 reported home invasion robberies in the Gauteng Province alone – the area that covers Johannesburg and Pretoria, the cities in which he was born and lived.
Yes, he is hidden away on the Silverwoods estate on the eastern outskirts of Pretoria and is protected by armed guards round the clock, but as he told me: ‘The problem is when the guards are in on the crime. It’s usually safe in guarded estates like this until that happens.’
It is from this crazy world that somehow Pistorius reportedly shot dead his girlfriend, whom he had mistaken for an intruder, in the early hours of this morning. Initial reports claim that she was trying to surprise him for Valentine’s Day.
Whatever the truth of the incident – which leaves the most famous amputee athlete in history under arrest and facing court later today – it is another horribly sad chapter in a life marked by poignancy, heartache and triumph.
Oscar Carl Lennard Pistorius, born in Johannesburg on November 22, 1986, was a beautiful baby. Though it was not spotted at first, his father Henk and mother Sheila soon noticed that their boy’s feet were malformed. He had been born without fibula in either leg.
The fighting spirit of the Pistorius family kicked in. ‘It was clear,’ said Oscar, ‘that in their minds my parents would do whatever it was going to take to find a solution.’ Doctors were sought, no matter what the cost, to find the best solution.
Amputation was the chosen cure and the young Oscar grew up walking on stumps. Later when he went to school, his brother would put on his shoes; he would put on his prosthetic legs. Simple as that. Me, different? No way.
His relationship with his father was a sometimes difficult one and, so far as I know, that remains the case. His relationship with his mother, on the other hand, was his inspiration.
Sheila, a devout Christian, died when Oscar was 15 and she was 42.
The date she was born and the date she died, of an allergic reaction to medication having being wrongly diagnosed with hepatitis, are tattooed on the inside of Oscar’s arm.
In the kitchen of his bachelor flat is a small gold gong and a pig-fat mallet. ‘We’d run when she hit that,’ Oscar smiled.
The very first page of his biography starts with the words: '"The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last. The real loser is the person who sits on the side, the person who does not even try to compete.” My mother wrote those words to me when I was still a small baby, about five months before my surgeons performed my bilateral amputation.
'She kept the letter for me to read as an adult.'
Self-pity was eschewed and this sports-mad boy threw himself at rugby and cricket. A speed freak and adrenaline junkie, he rode motor bikes, boats and cars like James Bond.
‘To tell you the truth,’ he continued in his book, Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner, ‘I don’t think of myself as disabled. I have limits, but we all have limits and like anyone else I also have many talents.
‘This attitude is integral to how my family approaches life and their philosophy has made me the man I am today, “This is Oscar Pistorius, exactly as he should be. Perfect in himself".'
He set out to be an athlete. Not a disabled athlete. And so his remarkable journey to become the first amputee sprinter in Olympic history at the London Games last summer was the towering achievement of his life. It was a stressful journey and occasionally at such times his usual friendly disposition could give way to surliness.
But make it to London he did as one of the poster boys of the Games, a figure known to people of every colour around the world.
Time magazine named him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
He qualified for the 400 metres semi-final in which he came last, and helped South Africa to eighth place in the 4x400m relay. He carried the South African flag at the closing ceremony, a recognition of his totemic significance.
It was, therefore, a shame that he let himself down by complaining at the length of the blades being used by Alan Oliveira, the Brazilian who beat him in the Paralympic 200m final a few weeks later.
It was ironic because Oscar had waged a campaign over the legality of his own blades when competing against able-bodied opponents.
I wrote that he was in the wrong and anyway he swiftly apologised for his heat-of-the-moment indiscretion. He harboured no resentment at my criticism and when I chanced upon him at the British Olympic Association Ball in November he flung his arms around me.
That was the last I saw or thought of him until the phone rang this morning and I was told that on that estate, in that house, Oscar Pistorius had allegedly shot his girlfriend dead.