South Africa’s former Paralympic sprint champion, Oscar Pistorius, who was jailed in 2014 for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a closed bathroom door, is to be released on parole from prison in early January.
Pistorius (37) was granted early release on Friday at a parole board hearing in Pretoria, where he was serving his sentence for killing Ms Steenkamp on St Valentine’s night in 2013.
Department of Correctional Services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said the board had reached its decision to free the former athlete on January 5th after “having assessed Mr Pistorius’ profile and other material submitted for the purposes of parole consideration”.
The fact Pistorius was a first-time offender with “a positive support” system was a factor in the decision, he said.
Ms Steenkamp’s mother, June, submitted a victim impact statement for the parole board’s consideration in which she said she did not believe the former Paralympian had killed her daughter by accident, or that he had been rehabilitated. “I do not believe Oscar’s version, that he thought the person in the toilet was a burglar. In fact, I do not know anybody who does,” her statement said.
“My dearest child screamed for her life; loud enough for the neighbours to hear her. I do not know what gave rise to his choice to shoot through a closed door four times at somebody with hollow-point ammunition when I believe, he knew, it was Reeva,” the statement said.
Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father, died earlier this year, and June Steenkamp said he had “left this world utterly devastated by the thought that he had failed to protect his daughter”.
Both of Reeva Steenkamp’s parents had met Pistorius in person last year as part of the rehabilitation process. His parole conditions stipulate that Pistorius cannot leave the Pretoria area without permission from the authorities, and that he must undertake anger management therapy and do community service. His parole will run until 2029.
Known as the “Blade Runner” for the carbon-fibre prosthetic legs he used to race on, Pistorius went from being an inspirational role model as a Paralympic champion to a convicted killer following a murder trial that garnered global attention.
During the trial Pistorius claimed he had shot at Ms Steenkamp by mistake, saying he thought she was an intruder who had accessed his house through a window in the early hours of the morning and was hiding behind his bathroom door.
He was found guilty of culpable homicide in 2014 by a Pretoria high court judge who sentenced him to five years in jail, an outcome that drew criticism in a country that experiences extreme levels of gender-based violence against women. In 2015 South Africa’s supreme court of appeal overturned the lower court’s ruling following an appeal by prosecutors, and convicted Pistorius of murder.
His sentence was subsequently increased to 13 years and five months. at a hearing in which the court accepted state prosecutors’ argument that the original jail term was “shockingly lenient”.
Friday’s hearing was the second time Pistorius has sought parole this year. In March, his bid for early release was struck out because the parole board ruled he had not completed the minimum detention period required to qualify for it. However, the constitutional court later ruled that the board had made a mistake in calculating the time he had already served, which paved the way for Pistorius’s new bid for parole on Friday.