Oscar Pistorius eligible for parole, could be free this week
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Former Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius has applied for parole and is expected to attend a hearing on Friday that will decide if he can be released from prison 10 years after killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by shooting her multiple times through a toilet door in his home.
Pistorius, who was convicted of murder in Steenkamp’s Valentine’s Day 2013 killing, could leave the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in Pretoria on Friday if his parole is granted, although the Department of Corrections said the process may take days to finalize if his application is successful.
Barry and June Steenkamp, the parents of Reeva, have said they oppose Pistorius’ release and are allowed to address the parole board at his hearing. A submission by a victim’s relatives is one of numerous factors taken into account.
“He is a murderer. He should remain in jail,” Barry Steenkamp said in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper published last month on the 10th anniversary of his daughter’s killing.
The Department of Corrections declined to give details on Pistorius’ hearing, saying it was “an internal matter” like any other parole hearing.
According to guidelines, the board will consider the offense Pistorius was convicted of, his conduct and disciplinary record while in prison, whether he took part in educational or other training courses, his mental and physical state, whether he’s likely to “relapse into crime” and the risk he poses to the public.
Of all the factors, legal expert Neo Mashele said that “generally speaking, the behavior of the offender is the most important consideration.”
Pistorius’ parole lawyer, Julian Knight, has previously said Pistorius has been a “model prisoner.” Knight didn’t respond to requests for comment this week. Neither did a lawyer for the Steenkamps.
Pistorius, who is now 36, was ultimately convicted of murder after prosecutors appealed against an initial conviction for culpable homicide, which is comparable to manslaughter. He was eventually sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017, again after a prosecution appeal against a lighter sentence.
Offenders in South Africa convicted of serious crimes must serve at least half their sentence before being considered for parole. Pistorius has done that after taking into account the time he served in jail from late 2014 while the appeals in his case were heard.
A number of options are available to the parole board: Pistorius could be released on full parole or placed on day parole, where he would be allowed to live and work in the community during the day but have to return to prison at night. He could also be placed under correctional supervision, which means he would be released but have to spend some of his time during the week at a correctional center.
Pistorius’ parole could be denied, where the board usually asks the offender to reapply at a later stage.
A double-amputee runner and multiple Paralympic champion once hailed as an inspirational figure, Pistorius’ murder trial and downfall captivated the world. His crime eventually led to him being sent to the Kgosi Mampuru II maximum security prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious.
He was moved to the Atteridgeville prison in 2016 because that facility is better suited to disabled prisoners. Pistorius had both his lower legs amputated as a baby and walks with prosthetics.
There have been glimpses of his life in prison, with reports claiming he had at one point grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking and was unrecognizable from the elite athlete who competed against able-bodied runners on his carbon-fiber blades at the 2012 London Olympics.
He has spent much of his time working in an area of the prison grounds where vegetables are grown, sometimes driving a tractor. His father, Henke Pistorius, said in a 2018 interview that he was running bible classes for other inmates.
There have also been flashes of trouble. Pistorius sustained an injury in an altercation with another inmate over a public telephone in 2017. A year earlier, Pistorius received treatment for injuries to his wrists, which his family denied were a result of him harming himself.
Pistorius has been seeking parole since 2021 but a hearing that year was canceled partly because he hadn’t yet met with Barry and June Steenkamp in a process known as a victim-offender dialogue. It is required in South Africa — if victims or their family want the meeting — before an offender can be considered for parole.
Pistorius claims he shot 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp by mistake with his licensed 9 mm pistol because he thought she was a dangerous intruder. He met face-to-face with her father last year in a meeting which convinced Barry Steenkamp that Pistorius should not be released, he said in the Daily Mail interview.
“I told Oscar directly that he had shot my daughter deliberately and he denied it,” Steenkamp said. “He stuck to his story that he thought it was an intruder. After all these years we are still waiting for him to admit he did it in anger. That is all we wanted.”
“If he told me the truth,” said Steenkamp, “I would have let the law take its course over his parole.”