LA police pursue fugitive Simpson: Authorities embarrassed as sports superstar goes to earth after being charged with murder of ex-wife

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The Independent Online
ONE OF America's sports superstars, O J Simpson, became a fugitive from justice yesterday, when at the last minute, he failed to turn himself in to police to answer charges that he murdered his former wife and a male friend in Los Angeles on Sunday.

'He is a wanted murder suspect and we will find him,' said an angry Los Angeles police lieutenant, David Gascon. He said that Mr Simpson had broken an agreement to surrender himself to be arraigned for the double murder.

Later Mr Simpson's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, said his client had written a letter before disappearing, saying 'I can't go on.' Mr Shapiro said he feared Mr Simpson might have committed suicide.

After five days of mounting speculation that the arrest of Mr Simpson - one of the most famous American footballers before his retirement - was imminent, the police announced that he was to be charged with the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. If convicted he is likely to face the death sentence.

Evidence has mounted all week linking Mr Simpson with the stabbings. A bloody ski mask was reportedly found in his house, but prosecutors last night denied that they had found the knife used in the killing. A bloody glove was also reported to have been discovered.

Mr Simpson claims he was at home two miles from his wife's condominium when the killings occurred, but his alibi has looked increasingly shaky. A limousine driver who drove the footballer to the airport the same night says Mr Simpson was not at home when he first arrived. He says that when Mr Simpson got into the car he was sweaty and agitated. A jogger says she saw a car resembling Mr Simpson's parked opposite the house of Nicole Simpson at the time of the killings.

Despite mounting evidence against Mr Simpson, police were slow to arrest him, probably because the failure of prosecutors in Los Angeles to win a verdict in recent highly publicised cases - such as the Menendez brothers for the alleged murder of their parents - has made them very cautious.

The police will be deeply embarrassed that their carefully arranged plan to get Mr Simpson to surrender peacefully failed. It is unlikely that he will remain at large for long, since his appearance is so well-known. Mr Simpson, who retired from football in 1979, has remained well- known as an actor, sports commentator and spokesman for Hertz car rental.

His trial may lead to racial tensions, because he is the latest black superstar, following the heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, to face charges of serious wrongdoing.

Long before he was charged, leaks from the investigators had focused on Mr Simpson as the only real suspect. Blood resembling Mr Simpson's was found at the scene of the crime, but DNA testing, which might take two months, is needed to confirm if it is actually his. A bloody towel was also found in his room in the O'Hare Plaza hotel in Chicago to which he flew hours after the crime. He says he cut his hand on a glass he broke in emotion on being told by police that his wife was dead.

A vivid picture of the home life of the Simpsons before they were divorced after seven years of marriage in 1992 is revealed by court records which show that police were called nine times to their house after Mrs Simpson was beaten by her husband.

At the time she complained to them: 'You never do anything about him. You talk to him, then leave.'

(Photograph omitted)