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Oscar Pistorius – from childhood to the courtroom

November 14th, 2014
10:42 AM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

It is the question that remains on many people’s minds. Did Oscar Pistorius intentionally kill his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year?

“Most people who ask me that question have already made up their minds. And I sort of rather confuse people by saying, ‘I simply do not know,’” journalist John Carlin, whose new book traces the athlete’s life from his early days to the courtroom, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

Even after the “Blade Runner” was handed a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide, Carlin said what happened on that night is still up in the air.

“I honestly don't think even the judge, who found him guilty of culpable homicide, if you really pin her down in the intimacy of her home, what do you really, really think happened, I think she'd have to say she doesn't know.”

“The point is on the evidence that was provided in court that was a legitimate, I think, judgment to reach and certainly on the evidence in court, you could not conclude that he had intentionally killed his girlfriend.”

In “Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius,” Carlin paints a portrait of what he came to realize is “an immensely complex figure.”

“When I heard back on Valentine's Day last year that this had happened, my first reaction was to do the fact check. My second one, obviously he killed her intentionally. Obviously it was some kind of a jealous rage.”

“But then I started probing the thing, looking into his character. And I realized how fearful and insecure he was. And what a man of extremes he is.”

The book examines several episodes from the Paralympic and Olympic's life, including his schooling in Pretoria, South Africa.

“He goes to this very tough boarding school, where he had to play rugby, where he had to go on long treks, you know, over mountains and in the desert heat. And he just kept going, despite having terrible blisters, bleeding stumps and you know, there was this extraordinary drive in him.”

“And you could see there the seeds of this extraordinary competitor.”

But after winning gold in the Paralympics in Athens at 17 years old, Carlin said, the school’s “headmaster attempted to sort of ground him and say, look, you've got to put your schooling - because he hadn't finished his school yet - He had a year to go.”

Carlin told Amanpour that, as the athlete shot to fame, “the sense you get is that he never had a figure like that in the rest of his life to keep him grounded.”

“He is the most extraordinary story in the history of sport, amputated legs at 11 months old, runs in the Olympic Games at twenty-five years old.”

“And he's a man of extremes in all senses. He does have a bad temper, but he's also immensely polite and courteous. He's also extraordinarily kind. He's also very, very hot-headed. There's all these different elements of his character, which makes him really quite fascinating.”

Until now, Carlin is best known for his book “Playing the Enemy,” which was turned into the acclaimed rugby film “Invictus” in 2009. He followed the Pistorius trial from the courtroom.

“People wondered watching this on TV whether it was playacting. Well, those of us who were in court, unless you had a very, very biased opinion, we were pretty convinced this was for real. You don't vomit playacting, which is what he was doing in court.”

“But I think also in the end, this sort of anguished expression that he had, even as the good news was beginning to unfold, I think was also an expression of immense relief, the fact is that he got the best possible verdict that he could realistically have expected.”

Click above to watch the full interview.

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