No fear No Favour No Personality assassins..........please
By JONATHAN MCEVOY Monday, Feb 17 2014 6PM
By JONATHAN MCEVOY Monday, Feb 17 2014 6PM
The dark side of the Blade Runner: Guns strewn around his bachelor pad, explosive rages, a procession of blondes... and trips to the shooting range when he couldn't sleep
- Weapons needed to protect home in country plagued by violent crime
- More than 7,000 ‘home invasion robberies’ in Gauteng Province alone in 2011
- Pistorius told of his worries about home robbery
- Guards patrol Pistorius’ home ‘but sometimes are in on crimes’
- Tragic incident in a life marked by poignancy, heartache and triumph
PUBLISHED: 23:21 GMT, 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 23:54 GMT, 14 February 2013
Oscar Pistorius's bedroom was immaculate. His hundreds of designer t-shirts and trainers were packed neatly into the wardrobe, doubtless put away by his houseboy Frankie.
His double bed was perfectly made. Golden sunlight streamed through the large window. The only items that looked out of place were the cricket and baseball bats behind the door.
Then there was the black pistol on the table next to the bed – and a sinister-looking machine gun under the window.
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It dawned on me that perhaps the bats weren’t there just so that Pistorius could play ball games.
We were upstairs in his bachelor pad on a millionaires’ complex in the hills above Pretoria.
It was August 2011, and I was there to interview the athlete for this newspaper.
We met on the grounds of Pretoria University. He greeted me warmly with a firm handshake, clasping me by the elbow with his other hand.
We spent about an hour and a half in the sports hall restaurant. He was relaxed and expansive.
There was much debate at the time about whether his running blades were legal. He argued they conferred him no advantage over able-bodied athletes.
When the interview was over, he said: ‘Thanks so much for coming. Do you want to come home for some lunch, brother?’
He drove us in his latest super-fast sports car – a blue 3 Series BMW, fitted with all manner of go-faster gadgets. (He changed cars on a regular basis.)
To access his house, we passed armed guards at the arched Mediterranean-style gateway to the gated community. Fastidious about manners, Pistorius spoke politely to the men – ‘Thanks very much, cuz.’
The barriers rose and we drove through. He prepared us a chicken, nut and avocado salad, took a bottle of water for himself and slung me a beer. His dining room was vast, with room for 16 chairs around the rectangular table.
After lunch, he showed me around his home. I recall being impressed by the marble floors.
In his bedroom, I pointed to the handgun – a nine-millimetre pistol – and asked what it was for.
‘Protection, brother,’ said Pistorius. ‘You can have all the guards in the world at the gate, but the problem is when they are in on the robbery.’
South Africa is a country of contradictions. It is welcoming and, for the most part, friendly, but it is also a cauldron of criminal violence.
Every year around 7,000 so-called ‘home invasion raids’ take place in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, which covers Johannesburg and Pretoria, the cities where Pistorius was born and lives.
The robbers prefer to strike when the occupants are at home, so the alarm does not go off and the intruders can be shown – with as much encouragement is necessary – where the valuables are kept.
It was at the house which I visited that Oscar Pistorius was arrested at 4am yesterday having allegedly shot dead his 30-year-old model girlfriend of three months, Reeva Steenkamp. He was charged with murder and will appear in court today.
The four shots to Miss Steenkamp’s head, chest and arms came from a 9mm handgun.
Was it, as some suggested, a surprise Valentine’s Day visit by his girlfriend that went tragically wrong when Pistorius mistook her for an intruder and reached for one of those guns? Or did this complex man, by turns both charming and brittle, know precisely what he was doing?
I have seen both the Jekyll and Hyde sides of his personality. After my visit to his home, he got me a reservation at a nearby hotel called the Farm Inn and drove me there.
Nothing was too much trouble. The owner, a friend of Pistorius, was a lady called Rose Michaletos. I spent a restful evening there, and the next day Pistorius picked me up and drove me at breakneck pace to Johannesburg airport – tyres screeching as he rounded corners like a man possessed.
‘Thank you so much for coming, brother,’ he said, and slapped me on the back.
But by the following May, Pistorius was a different, much more troubled man.
The hotel owner Rose admitted she was worried about him.
‘He has a string of blondes,’ she said, adding that he had just thrown a big birthday party for people he had only just met. His once tidy living room had been strewn with empty bottles.
‘It’s an odd family,’ added Rose. ‘The brother Carl is very up and down, and the sister Amy likes to stay out of Oscar’s professional life.’
What struck her had also struck me: where was the support structure of dieticians and physiotherapists usually at the heart of a modern athlete’s life?
His regular ‘diet’ was worrying. At around 7am, he would make a cup of coffee using his stylish machine at home – hardly the breakfast of champions. There was no milk in the house. He ate no food; just swigged from a 500ml energy ‘shake’ in a plastic bottle as he drove to the track.
He did not return to the house until 11.30am, meaning he had not eaten all morning. He was back training at 2.30pm, leaving little time for digestion. It was a chaotic life. Why did one of the world’s richest athletes – born into a wealthy mining family – not pay for a housekeeper to cook his meals?
All this came just three months before the London Olympics – the high point of his career – and he was popping caffeine tablets for energy, which he kept in the drinks holder of his car.
By now, he was blaming every daily tribulation on others – he had too many media commitments, he complained, too many interruptions to his schedule.
He still peppered his conversation with ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’, but in between the pleasantries, the language suggested someone who was depressed. He was often monosyllabic and often used expletives.
Work-out sessions at Jannie’s Gym, near his home, were irregular. He was known to rant and rave as he struggled to complete the simplest of routines. His swearing would astonish the mothers and children also using the gym.
Occasionally, he would stalk out in a fury, returning only when his anger had expired.
He couldn’t sleep – perhaps unsurprisingly given his caffeine pills and coffee diet. Often he would rise in the middle of the night and go with his gun and a couple of boxes of ammunition to the shooting range.
Asked how often, he replied: ‘Just sometimes when I can’t sleep.’
The use of firearms is certainly an unusual remedy for insomnia, and perhaps not the healthiest.
While an undoubtedly brilliant athlete, and the poster boy for Paralympic sport, Pistorius’s dark side was becoming increasingly evident.
His love life was complex. He was linked to a procession of women – always blonde, pneumatic, glamour girls.
It was almost as if he were seeking validation through sex, trying to compensate for some deep-seated insecurity that perhaps came with his disability.
Amid the amorous comings and goings, he got together with Vicky Miles in 2006, the school sweetheart whom he described as ‘my true love’. They split two years later, only to be reunited a short while afterwards, but they broke up again last year.
They weren’t ‘exclusive’ and Pistorius, at least, had other girlfriends at the same time. However, he has said of Vicky: ‘Our relationship was very intense and, although, this most probably contributed to our eventual separation, it meant that while we were together we approached every moment as if it was our last.’
In a poignant echo of yesterday’s drama, Pistorius crept into Vicky’s house on Valentine’s Day 2006. ‘While everyone was sleeping, I had been to her house to hang 200 coloured balloons,’ he recalled. ‘I blew every one of them up individually.’
His girlfriend before the late Miss Steenkamp was Samantha Taylor, a marketing student from Cape Town, and another identikit blonde.
They dated for 18 months before splitting late last year. Even while with Miss Taylor, Pistorius was linked to several other women, including Russian model Anastassia Khozissova.
Pistorius was then seen with Miss Steenkamp at an awards ceremony in South Africa last November. At first they insisted they were ‘just friends’, but when it became clear they were a couple, Miss Taylor – his previous lover – spoke out.
‘Oscar had such a way with women. She’s probably not the only one he’s got.’ She then added, somewhat enigmatically: ‘Oscar’s certainly not what people think he is.’
At the same time, she told another newspaper that she was ‘prepared to reveal what (Pistorius) made me go through.’ Later, in a lawyer’s letter sent to the paper, she withdrew her comments.
Pistorius’s image was tarnished still further by a report last November that he had ‘threatened to break the legs’ of a friend of a man he thought had slept with yet another girlfriend, approaching South African football player Marc Batchelor in the VIP area of a horseracing track.
He has, at various times, been linked to at least three other South African women: Jenna Edkins, Melissa Rom and Chanelle du Plessis. All are young, attractive and blonde.
Yesterday, police revealed that there had been a history of problems related to 26-year-old Pistorius. He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly assaulting a woman during a party at his house. He spent the night in the cells, but the case was not pursued.
So what is it that drives this talented young man to live his life as such a frenetic pace, and with such forcefulness of character?
Pistorius has always made light of his disability. His mother, a devout Christian, wrote a letter to him while he was still a baby for him to read when he was older. She wrote: ‘The real loser is the person who sits on the side, the person who does not even try to compete.’
But Pistorius always knew he was different. Playing on a beach as a toddler, two children asked him: ‘Why do you leave holes in the sands, not footprints?’ How many times, in how many different ways must that scenario have been replayed? His adored mother died when she was just 42. He was only 15, and so it was a serious emotional blow.
He has a tattoo on his arm in her memory – a quote from Corinthians. He had it done on a whim. ‘I went into an all-night tattoo parlour,’ he explained. ‘Some Puerto Rican guy did it. It took from 2am to about 8.30am. I think he was falling asleep after a while, which is why it’s a little squiggly at the bottom.’
Perhaps the emotional suffering explains his fierce competitive streak. Of course, that drive to win is a trait of all top-level sportsmen, yet it seems even more pronounced in Pistorius, perhaps to an unnatural degree.
Certainly, he seems to court danger. Last year one journalist told how Pistorius took him for a spin in one of his cars – he drove at 155mph, on a wet road.
He needed 172 stitches in his face after crashing a speed boat into a pier on a river south of Johannesburg in 2008. He kept tigers until they became too big to be safe.
As an animal lover, he also owns racehorses and keeps two boisterous dogs.
It was his macho attitude that gave him the backbone to fight for the right to compete against able-bodied athletes, beating objections from athletics’ world governing body.
Though he excelled himself by reaching the Olympic semi-final of the 400m, it was during the Paralympics last summer that the world caught a sobering glimpse of the ‘other’ Pistorius. Beaten by the Brazilian Alan Oliviera in the 200m final, he used his post-match interview to complain bitterly that he had been cheated of victory because his rival’s prosthetic ‘blades’ were too long.
I criticised him in print for his lack of grace in defeat. Yet when I next saw him last November he threw his arms around me. This was the Pistorius whose company I had so enjoyed at his home. But I keep thinking back to that bedroom and those guns.
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COMMENTS BY SONNY
The once famous BLADE RUNNER!
BECOMES INFAMOUS OVERNIGHT ON VALENTINE'S DAY 2013.
IT'S LIKE A VAMPIRE THRILLER WHERE EVERYONE IS OUT TO DRAW HIS BLOOD!!
MARK BATCHELOR, MOST OF ALL BEING "MR NICE GUY?"