OJ Simpson, the NFL star known for "the trial of the century", has died. GETTY IMAGES

The former Seventies star was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and a friend in 1995 and died aged 76. The world was then shocked by the police chase and the trial. He went from star to villain, always in the shadow of his fame.

OJ Simpson, the American football star of the seventies, has died at the age of 76. He shocked the world in 1995 when he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and a friend in the 'trial of the century'. He became a villain after the brutal murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in a Los Angeles suburb.

The televised police chase to catch Simpson was a global event. The nine-month trial that followed, with high-profile lawyers and accusations of racism, was watched by millions. His acquittal in October 1995 divided the nation. It was greeted with disbelief by many Americans, right down to the nitty-gritty of whether a pair of gloves actually fit the former athlete's hands.

"On April 10, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer," read a message signed by the family on social media site X on Thursday. "He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren at this time. During this time of transition, his family asks that his privacy and dignity be respected." He had reportedly had been battling prostate cancer.

OJ Simpson in a trial in 2008. GETTY IMAGES
OJ Simpson in a trial in 2008. GETTY IMAGES

Simpson's story has always been one of immense interest and anticipation. He rose from poverty and illness to become an elite athlete and quickly achieved fame, first as a college football player and then in the National Football League. He won the Most Valuable Player award in 1973.

However his life took many more turns, for he was not just an athlete. His popularity grew with a post-NFL career as an actor and commercial pitchman, where his appearances promoting everything from orange juice to car rental made him one of the most recognisable black faces in the country.

His work with Hertz became part of pop culture folklore. He was seen sprinting through airports in a three-piece suit, but it all stopped when Brown Simpson, 35, and waiter Goldman, 25, were found stabbed to death outside their home on 12 June 1994.

OJ Simpson sighs during another trial in 2017. GETTY IMAGES
OJ Simpson sighs during another trial in 2017. GETTY IMAGES

Public opinion was sharply divided along racial lines over Simpson's guilt or innocence after the initial evidence. OJ walked free and was acquitted, but he was never the same. The shadow of suspicion haunted him, and in a 1997 civil trial he was found liable for the deaths and ordered to pay $33.5 million (€31.4 million) in damages to the victims' families.

Fred Goldman, Ronald's father, spoke to NBC News on Thursday and said of Simpson's death that it was "not a great loss". "The only thing I have to say is: It's just another reminder of Ron's absence all these years," he said. 

Simpson also served nearly nine years in prison for a botched armed robbery. He was approved for release by a parole board in the western state of Nevada in 2017. His life has always been closely watched, as everything around him was expected to happen.

Yet he was always in the news for everything that surrounded him. "OJ: Made in America," a nearly eight-hour work about his murder trial, won the Oscar for best documentary in 2017. And The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, a television miniseries starring Cuba Gooding Jr as the athlete, won several Emmy awards in 2016.

The White House issued a brief statement on Thursday, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying: "The family has asked for some privacy. And so we're going to respect that. I'll leave it at that." Meanwhile, Simpson dismissed reports that he was in palliative care in a video posted on X on 9 February this year.

"Are you talking about palliative care? No, I'm not in hospice! I don't know who said that," he said, laughing. Two days later, he posted his latest X video. "My health is good. I mean... I'm dealing with some issues, but I think I'm almost over it and I'm hoping to be back on the golf course in a couple of weeks," he added.