Africa Sports

Oscar Pistorius: South African ‘Blade Runner’ granted parole 10 years after killing girlfriend

Oscar Pistorius released on parole.

The double-amputee Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius had parole granted him on Friday, 10 years after the shooting incident that shocked the world. He shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp through a toilet door at his home in South Africa. He is to be set free from prison on January 5 but will continue to be observed by parole officials for five years until his sentence is complete.

Other conditions of his release are that he will not be allowed to leave the area of Pretoria without permission from authorities. He will also attend a program to deal with anger issues and another program on violence against women. He will have to perform community service.

According to the Pretoria Department of Corrections spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo, “Parole does not mean the end of the sentence. It is still part of the sentence. It only means the inmate will complete the sentence outside a correctional facility,”. What will happen is that Mr. Pistorius will be allocated a monitoring official. This official will work with him until his sentence expires.”

He was imprisoned for shooting  his partner Reeva Steenkamp four times through the bathroom door of his house in 2013.
He was imprisoned for shooting his partner Reeva Steenkamp four times through the bathroom door of his house in 2013. Waldo Swiegers/AFP/Getty Images

Nxumalo said the monitoring official would need to be notified of any major events in Pistorius’ life, including if he wants to move or get a job.

Pistorius’ entire sentence will expire on December 5, 2029. The parole decision was made at a hearing at the prison earlier Friday.

The former athlete who turned 37 this week, has been incarcerated since late 2014 for the killing of his model girlfriend on Valentine’s Day 2013, though he was released for a period in 2015 while one of his many appeals was being heard.  He ended up being convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.

In South Africa, before being considered for parole, serious offenders must have served at least half of their sentence to be eligible for parole and Pistorius has met this condition.

The ‘blade runner’ made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics running on prosthetic “blades”, and was at the height of his career when he killed Steenkamp. He shot her several times in the bathroom of his Pretoria villa just before dawn with his licensed 9-millimeter pistol.

This last parole hearing was his second in eight months. At the previous one, he was wrongly ruled ineligible for early release at a hearing in March, due to an error made by an appeals court over when the sentence officially started.

His initial conviction had been culpable homicide; similar to manslaughter for killing Steenkamp, it was later overturned and he was convicted of murder after an appeal by prosecutors. They also appealed against an initial sentence of six years for murder, and Pistorius was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.

Pistorius account at his murder trial was that he killed Steenkamp by mistake when he fired four times through the door thinking she was a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom in the middle of the night. Prosecutors argued that Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, had fled to the toilet cubicle during a late-night argument and that Pistorius killed her in a rage.

Pistorius was eventually convicted of murder on a legal principle known as dolus eventualis, which means he acted with extreme recklessness and should have known that whoever was behind the door would likely be killed. It’s comparable to third-degree murder.

Steenkamp’s father, Barry Steenkamp, died in September. Her mother, June Steenkamp, did not oppose Pistorius’ parole but said in a statement before the hearing that she did not believe Pistorius had been fully rehabilitated and was still lying about the killing.

Rob Matthews, a South African man whose 21-year-old daughter was murdered in 2004 and who became a Steenkamp family friend, read out June Steenkamp’s statement. She said she was not opposing Pistorius’ parole and didn’t attend the hearing because “I simply cannot muster the energy to face him again at this stage.”

While out on parole, Pistorius is expected to live at his uncle’s luxurious mansion in a wealthy Pretoria suburb, where he stayed during his murder trial.

There have been only occasional glimpses of Pistorius’ life behind bars. His father has said he has been holding Bible classes for fellow prisoners, while a criminologist who worked with him said he had been driving a tractor at a part of the prison where vegetables are grown.

Pistorius’ lawyers have said he has been a “model prisoner.” There have been flashes of trouble, though, including an altercation Pistorius had with another inmate over a prison telephone that left him requiring medical treatment.

Pistorius killed Steenkamp just months after he had become the first double-amputee to compete at the Olympics. He was also a multiple Paralympic sprinting champion and one of sport’s most marketable figures, having overcome the amputation of both his legs below the knee as a baby to run on specially designed carbon-fiber blades.

At his sensational trial, prosecutors argued there was another side to Pistorius’ life that involved guns and angry confrontations with others. Pistorius was also found guilty of a second charge of recklessly firing a gun in a restaurant.

As June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother  said in the statement, “I do not believe Oscar’s version that he thought the person in the toilet was a burglar,” June Steenkamp said in the statement. “In fact, I do not know anybody who does. My dearest child screamed for her life. … I believe he knew it was Reeva.”

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