Olympic runner Pistorius granted parole over girlfriend’s murder


South Africa’s ex-Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius will be released from prison in January after he was granted parole on Friday, a decade after he shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in a crime that gripped the world, prison authorities said.

Steenkamp’s mother, who had said she did not believe the ex-athlete was rehabilitated for he had not shown true remorse, was “satisfied” with the parole terms, which include therapy for anger and gender-based violence issues, according to her lawyer.

“She feels heard,” June Steenkamp’s lawyer, Tania Koen, told AFP. “(The ruling) sends a clear message that gender-based violence won’t be tolerated.”

A parole board reviewing whether Pistorius, 37, was fit for social reintegration decided to allow him out of prison early, the department of correctional services said.

“Mr Pistorius will complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections and will be subjected to supervision in compliance with parole conditions until his sentence expires,” the department said.

He will be released on January 5.

A spokesman for Steenkamp’s family said that as part of the parole conditions, Pistorius will have to do community service and attend therapy for anger and gender-based violence issues.

He will also not be allowed to leave the Pretoria district of Waterkloof without prior authorisation, Steenkamp family spokesman Rob Matthews said, adding the parole period will end in December 2029.

Before being let out, Pistorius will undergo a pre-release programme that is to prepare him for life outside prison, said department of correctional services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo.

“Not everyone will find it easy to adjust,” Nxumalo said, adding the scheme was to prepare inmates that “not everyone will welcome you as others will open their arms.”

Pistorius killed Steenkamp, a model, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, firing four times through the bathroom door of his ultra-secure Pretoria house.

Known worldwide as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetics, he was found guilty of murder and given a 13-year jail sentence in 2017 after a lengthy trial and several appeals.

He had pleaded not guilty and denied killing Steenkamp in a rage, saying he mistook her for a burglar.

But June Steenkamp, who was not present at the parole hearing on Friday and was being represented by Matthews and a lawyer, said she does not believe Pistorius has told the truth about what happened.

“I do not believe Oscar’s version,” she said in her submission to the board.

“My dear 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.”

While she did not oppose parole for Pistorius, Steenkamp’s mother was not convinced he was fully rehabilitated, the spokesman said.

“Rehabilitation requires someone to engage honestly, with the full truth of his crime and the consequences thereof. Nobody can claim to have remorse if they’re not able to engage fully with the truth,” June Steenkamp said in her submission.

Nevertheless, she said she forgave the former sprinter “long ago, as I knew most certainly that I would not be able to survive if I had to cling to my anger.”

The hearing held at a correctional centre outside Pretoria where he is currently detained, was Pistorius’s second shot at parole in less than eight months.

He lost a first bid in March when the board found Pistorius had not completed the minimum detention period required to be let out.

The Constitutional Court last month ruled that was a mistake, paving the way for a new hearing.

Pistorius’ lawyers welcomed the ruling, adding they were however “disappointed” that the release date was “not sooner”, given the delay caused by the error made in March.

As part of his rehabilitation, Pistorius met Steenkamp’s parents last year, in a process authorities said aims to ensure inmates “acknowledge the harm they have caused.”

Steenkamp’s father Barry died in September aged 80.

“I’ve no doubt that he died of a broken heart,” the widow said in her statement.

Offenders in South Africa are automatically eligible for parole consideration after serving half of their sentence.

The board, normally made up of correctional services and community members, assesses whether an inmate still poses a danger to society.

This takes into account the seriousness of the offence as well as Pistorius’s behaviour behind bars.

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