OJ - the former legend's bandwagon judders to a halt

OJ Simpson, once a beloved legend in America, will spend at least the next six years behind bars as his momentous fall from grace reached its lowest point yet.

It was America's "trial of the century" 13 years ago that indirectly led to the former American football star being brought before the Las Vegas courts earlier this year.

He also penned a book, called If I Did It, which set out how he might have murdered his ex-wife, had he been so inclined.

His 1995 acquittal of the double murder of his former wife and her friend was followed by a civil judgment which found him responsible for their deaths and ordered him to pay 33.5 million dollars (£22.9 million) in damages.

In order to avoid handing over any money, prosecutors said he hid valuable sports memorabilia and personal items at the homes of various friends after a tip-off that his own home was about to be raided by the US authorities.

It is this property which was at the centre of the Las Vegas hotel room heist and Simpson's subsequent conviction for kidnapping and armed robbery.

Born in San Francisco, California, on July 9 1947, "The Juice" was once probably the greatest player in the National Football League.

But the double killing of his ex-wife and her friend in 1994 saw him become one of the most famous murder suspects in legal history as he took his place at the centre of the "trial of the century".

As every moment played out on television screens across the world, Simpson walked free from the Los Angeles courtroom after his high-profile defence team raised doubts about DNA evidence, police conduct and a blood-stained black leather glove.

"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," jurors were told.

But more than a decade later in Las Vegas, the thousands of supporters, protesters and media who followed his every move in the 1990s were nowhere to be seen, and the jury in courtroom 15a of the Clark Country district court found him guilty of a dozen counts of kidnapping and armed robbery.

His arrest last year by at least six plain-clothes policemen, accompanied by a handful of hotel security guards from The Palms casino-hotel in Las Vegas, was not the first time Simpson had had legal troubles since his high profile LA trial.

In Florida in 2001 he was cleared of charges in a road-rage incident and, in January 2003, his teenage daughter Sydney made an emotional 911 call to police after an argument with her father over family issues, but no charges were filed.

A neighbour who went to Simpson's suburban Miami home on July 4 2005, also called police to report a fight, but again no charges were filed.

In the UK, Simpson has always been better known for his involvement in criminal trials than for his work on the pitch.

Before the 1994 murders his name meant little to Britons except as the man who had bit parts in the Naked Gun comedy films.

Alongside madcap Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley and Hollywood heavyweight George Kennedy, he was easy to miss as a detective sidekick.

But all that changed on the night of June 12 1994, with the two killings and the start of Simpson's route to jail.

After years as the much feared and much loved Number 32 of the Buffalo Bills, Simpson received another number - 4013970, a prisoner of Los Angeles County Jail. And again, in his latest case, he was inmate number 2648927 after his arrest in Las Vegas.

TV viewers all over the world were gripped by the proceedings in the Los Angeles courtroom from where the double murder trial was screened for more than 250 days and analysed in detail by experts keen to jump on the OJ bandwagon.

As he was questioned about the murders of his ex-wife Nicole, 35, the mother of his two children, and Ron Goldman, 25, he became the biggest TV star of all.

Reports at the time said he became the best known black American since Muhammad Ali - for all the wrong reasons.

Up to the trial he had been one of America's best loved sportsmen - Frank Bruno and Gary Lineker rolled into one clean-cut image with a multi-million dollar fortune.

He had been probably the greatest player in American football as a running back with the Buffalo Bills and became the game's highest paid player as he was credited with reversing their fortunes.

He was made a member of American football's Hall of Fame and broke more records for skill than any other player.

Simpson had been a natural athlete and excelled as a sportsman at the University of Southern California, leading his team to the national championship and winning the coveted Heisman Trophy for best college footballer of the year by the largest margin ever.

When he retired from the game in 1979, Hollywood moguls beat a well-worn path to his door and he soon became one of the TV glory boys as a commentator and then an actor in films.

But behind the scenes things were going badly and in 1989 he was put on probation for two years for allegedly kicking, punching and slapping his wife.

Their stormy marriage broke up in 1992 and an alleged effort to get back together just before the murders was a disaster waiting to happen.

His ex-wife and her friend were found stabbed to death on the tiled pavement outside her Spanish-style town house near Sunset Boulevard.

Simpson was soon arrested after a bizarre slow-speed police chase through the streets of Los Angeles, driving one handed while holding a gun to his head, threatening to kill himself.

As an eerie prelude to the eventual trial, it was played out on live television and screened around the world. The bandwagon was up and running.

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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