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Friend, Blademaker Moves to AR, Talks About Oscar Pistorius

You may be aware of the big trial going on right now in South Africa. Oscar Pistorius -- a double amputee who rose to international fame competing in the 2012 summer Olympics -- is accused of murdering his model-girlfriend last year.

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- You may be aware of the big trial going on right now in South Africa.  Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who rose to international fame competing in the 2012 summer Olympics, is accused of murdering his model-girlfriend last year.
   
A long-time friend and the man who designed the blades Pistorius wore when he ran has recently moved to Arkansas.

Francois van der Watt scrapes away at a prosthetic leg in a Little Rock lab at Horton's Orthotics & Prosthetics where he now works  The South African native says he was drawn to the profession by the reward of giving the freedom of movement to those without it.

Van der Watt also works with amputees seeking to push the limits of what's possible on prosthetic legs.

"Oscar came to me via his grandmother," said Van Der Watt.  "He had some old, what we call exoskeleton prosthetics, and he completely broke the feet off the shanks.

Van Der Watt says Pistorius told him he was jumping hurdles.

Over the next 14 years, Van Der Watt says he and Pistorius became close as they worked to perfect the legs that gave him the name "blade runner."  It was Van Der Watt's design that Pistorius wore during the Olympics. 

"He was definitely one of the icons in South Africa," recalled Van Der Watt.

Pistorius' world came crashing down six months later when authorities in South Africa say he murdered his model girlfriend Reeva Steencamp, shooting her through the door of a bathroom in his bedroom.

"I stayed there," said Van Der Watt, of the home where the alleged murder happened.  "I visited him in 2010. I actually stayed in the room next door to where his room was."

Van Der Watt says he was in shock and disbelief upon hearing what was being accused of his long-time friend. 

When asked whether he thought Pistorius was guilty of murder, Van Der Watt said, "I want to believe he didn't..."

Throughout the trial, which started in March, Pistorius has said he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder. 

"It's hard because it's a current trial and we don't know what the evidence is going to bring out and which way it's going to go.  I don't think he did it on purpose," explained Van Der Watt.

Van der Watt says Pistorius was extremely competitive but never showed an inclination toward violence.
   
He says he still speaks to Pistorius through email even as the trial plays out.

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