‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius to be freed on parole 10 years after girlfriend’s murder

Key Points
  • Oscar Pistorius was convicted of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a decade ago
  • Pistorius defended his actions by saying he believed there was an intruder in his home.
  • Now aged 37, he has served half of his sentence of 13 years and five months.
Jailed South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius has been granted parole more than 10 years after murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and will be released on 5 January, authorities said.

Pistorius – known as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetic legs – shot the 29-year-old model and law graduate through a bathroom door on Valentine’s Day in 2013, and later repeatedly told courts he had mistaken her for an intruder.

Who is Oscar Pistorius?

Pistorius was born on November 22, 1986, in Johannesburg. Born without fibulas, a lower leg bone, he had both legs amputated below the knees before turning one year old.

After learning to walk on prosthetic legs, Pistorius became a sportsman in high school. He turned to sprint training in 2003 after suffering a serious knee injury playing rugby.

Oscar Pistorius during the 2012 Olympic Games. Source: AAP / Michael Kappeler/DPA

Running on carbon fibre prosthetic blades, Pistorius became a Paralympic gold medallist over 200 metres in Athens in 2004.

In January 2008, Pistorius was banned from running against able-bodied athletes by the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, which deemed that his blades provided an unfair advantage.

Four months later the Court for Arbitration for Sport ruled that he was eligible to compete in IAAF-sanctioned events. He capped the year by winning three golds at the Paralympics in Beijing.

Pistorius was selected for South Africa’s London Games team and in August 2012 he became the first double amputee to compete on the track at an Olympic Games, where he reached the 400 metres semi-finals.

He also carried the flag for South Africa at the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games and won two gold medals.

The murder on Valentine’s Day

Pistorius was arrested and charged with murder after he fired four shots at Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door at his Pretoria home on 14 February 2013.

He was convicted of culpable homicide in September 2014 but was let off the more serious charge of murder. He started his five-year jail sentence in October but was a year later released to house arrest.

A woman in a high ponytail stands alongside a man in a suit.

Oscar Pistorius (right) and his girlfriend, the late Reeva Steenkamp. Source: AAP / Lucky Nxumalo/AP

But the Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2015 overturned the earlier ruling and found Pistorius guilty of murder.

Pistorius was sent back to jail for six years in July 2016, which was less than half the 15-year minimum term sought by prosecutors.

The Supreme Court eventually more than doubled his sentence to 13 years and 5 months in November 2017, accepting state prosecutors’ argument that the original jail term was “shockingly lenient”.

Why has he been granted parole?

Now aged 37, he has served half of his sentence of 13 years and five months.

Several factors are typically taken into account by a parole board, including the nature of the crime, the possibility of reoffending, conduct in prison, physical and mental well-being and potential threats a prisoner may face if released.

Under South African law, he has an automatic right to a parole hearing.

Pistorius was classified at a parole hearing on Friday as “a first-time offender with a positive support system”.

What happens once he’s released from prison?

Pistorius will be constantly monitored by parole officials for five years until his sentence expires, Department of Corrections spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said on Friday.

His parole will come with other conditions:

  • Pistorius will not be allowed to leave the area of Pretoria where he is set to live 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.
A man sits in court as a woman leans over and hugs him.

Oscar Pistorius, hugs his sister, Aimee, right, in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on 15 June 2016. Source: AAP / Alon Skuy/AP

“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,” Nxumalo said.

“What will happen is that Mr Pistorius will be allocated a monitoring official. This official will work with him until his sentence expires.”

How has the Steenkamp family reacted?

The Steenkamps’ family lawyer said on Friday they were not surprised by the parole decision, issued after Pistorius had completed a set portion of his sentence.

But in the run-up to Friday’s hearing, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother June released a statement saying she was not convinced Pistorius had been rehabilitated.

A woman looks out of a car window.

June Steenkamp, mother of murder victim Reeva Steenkamp, said she was not convinced Pistorius had been rehabilitated. Source: AAP / Kim Ludbrook/EPA

“Rehabilitation requires someone to engage honestly with the full truth of his crime and the consequences thereof,” her statement read.

She said she had forgiven him “long ago as I knew most certainly that I would not be able to survive if I had to cling to my anger”.

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