Dateline   |  February 28, 2014

Oscar Pistorius: The Race of His Life part 3

Oscar had a stellar reputation in South Africa, second in popularity only to Nelson Mandela. People described him as "humble" "grounded," "salt-of-the-earth." So how did he end up being charged with the murder of a woman he had only known for 3 months?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the murder trial of oscar pistorius will revolve around a fundamental question, just exactly who and what is he? the fear soaked crime victim the defense is trying to portray or, as the prosecution would have it, the man who fully intended to kill his girlfriend when he fired through that door. either way , the question will hang over the trial. what happened to the aspiring soft spoken young man the world first met just a few short years ago?

>> cheers.

>> cheers.

>> bottoms up.

>> nbc's mary carillo was there with oscar when few beyond south africa even new his name.

>> is my face turning this color green? mary found a religious guy who seemed to be smiling his way through life.

>> you've never had terrible days?

>> not really. i think i've got to the point that i'm very happy.

>> oscar was born without key bones in his feet and lower legs. his parents could have opted for years of reconstructive surgery , but instead they decided to have oscar 's lower legs amputated when he was 11 months old. it was a good decision in the end, said oscar .

>> i believe certain things in my life have changed my personality in a positive way due to having a disability.

>> as nbc cameras followed oscar around south africa in the weeks leading up to the 2012 olympics , he seemed grounded, salt of the earth , no anger, no attitude. oscar even attached himself to a charity group , the mine seeker foundation, dedicated to helping land mine victims.

>> i'm very attached to mozambique in the past where we've given funding for prosthetic legs.

>> helping kids in war-torn countries, even an unabashed dog lover.

>> this is the chief of security?

>> yeah.

>> to mary, he seemed very sincere.

>> i really had exalted this guy. he seemed very aware of his personal power and what he could do with it. i really felt that he could -- he was a game-changer.

>> "new york times" reporter michael sokoloff spent a couple of weeks with oscar back then and he too was impressed.

>> in oscar 's home, there's almost an entire shelf of mandela biography , and oscar reads them. he's a smart guy . he's a literate person.

>> but there was a side to oscar that wasn't apparent then. one prosecutors will surely highlight at the trial. something cold and hard and angry. after months of interviews, we've learned it started to surface in the spring of 2012 . that's when oscar split with his long-time girlfriend, samantha taylor . here's a selfie oscar took of the two of them in happier times. oscar told her, though, the olympics came first. writer michael sokoloff was there when it happened.

>> he had told her he was too focused, too intent on this goal and he didn't feel that it was something he could maintain and he broke it off with her.

>> but later during the london games, we learned something was grinding away at oscar . at least that's what talk radio host david o'sullivan heard from oscar 's london roommate.

>> i said so what's it like rooming with him? he said it's terrible. he's always yelling and shouting at people on the phone. and i thought i didn't understand that because this was such a polite, lovely, accommodating bloke.

>> after the olympics , by then a world celebrity, oscar flew to the islands to take an episode of the south african talk show "top billing." oscar 's companion on this september trip was samantha taylor , his old girlfriend. the one he broke up with before the olympics . it certainly looked here as if oscar had patched things up with her now that the games were behind him.

>> it makes my life a lot easier spending time with someone who's very caring.

>> you're both blushing.

>> my face is the color of her dress.

>> at home oscar was an item everywhere he went. when he ordered a brand new leclaron it was noticed, like everything he did was noticed. he clearly enjoyed the attention and began to spend time with new friends. the solid, stoic coaches who raised him, taught him humility, gave way to pals like billionaire financier quinton van der burgh seen in his reality show , "clifton shores." and there was a nightclub owner.

>> there's ferraris, there's lamborghinis, there's porsches, there's road races . yeah, very flashy.

>> the thing is oscar loved speed of all kinds. fast people, fast cars . and here at the local formula one racetrack he met a fast crowd too. rent the whole place for their private races and their parties up there in the clubhouse. here oscar met the kind of people he might never have met had he not been oscar pistorius . here he met the people who pulled a thread from the carefully woven fabric of his life. the incident, and this may go back to those angry phone calls during the olympics , involved oscar 's wealthy new friend, quinton van der burgh , the producer of the reality show "clifton shores." oscar allegedly accused quinton of having an affair with samantha taylor , during the olympics , that is after oscar first broke it off with samantha .

>> oscar walked up to him and started going off at him. dude [ bleep ] my girlfriend while i'm running for my country.

>> soccer star marc batchelor will testify for the prosecution at oscar 's trial. he told us in an exclusive interview that his friend, quinton van der burgh , who, by the way, denied dating oscar 's girlfriend, was so upset about oscar 's outburst he asked batchelor to speak to oscar , get things sorted out.

>> he was still shaken up and asked me to find out what was going on.

>> when they spoke on the phone, said batchelor, oscar was combat combati combative.

>> he said what's the problem. you've got a problem with me? i'm not scared of you. i said you're a bit out of your league but he said i'll [ bleep ] you and break your legs. i didn't think anything of it.

>> until two days later when the pretoria police invited batchelor in for a face-to-face meeting with oscar . oscar was wearing a pistol that day, said batchelor. the very pistol he had by his side at all times. the one that's believed he used to shoot reeva. batchelor admits his own past checkered with brawling incidents left the meeting concerned oscar was losing his balance, hanging out with the wrong people.

>> oscar was in the crowd and i think it was too much too quickly for him.

>> there was a final breakup with samantha who, by the way, is also on the witness list. friends said she complained oscar was not pleasant at all. samantha 's mother claimed she was afraid for her daughter's safety. but the public knew none of that. as far as his fans were concerned, oscar was on top of the world . and so when oscar pistorius walked the red carpet in november, 2012 , of the national sports award show with this woman on his arm, the entire country wanted to know who is she?