Decade After Killing Girlfriend, Olympic Champion Oscar Pistorius Seeks Parole
Pretoria, South Africa:
South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius is expected to learn on Friday whether he will be released from prison early, a decade after he shot and killed his girlfriend, lawyers said.
Pistorius killed Reeva 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, in a killing that shocked the world.
A parole hearing began in the morning at a correctional facility on the outskirts of the capital where the 36-year-old is being held.
“We have been advised that there will be a decision later today,” Tania Koen, a lawyer representing Steenkamp’s family told reporters outside the facility a couple of hours after proceedings started.
Koen said Steenkamp’s mother, June, addressed the parole board in the morning also on behalf of her husband, Barry, who is unable to travel because of ill health.
The couple is opposing Pistorius’s release.
“It was very unpleasant for her… but she knew that she had to do it for Reeva,” Koen said of June Steenkamp’s appearance before the board.
Wearing a dark blazer and white shirt, she had arrived at the correctional facility by car earlier in the morning.
“They don’t feel that he should be released. They feel that he has shown no remorse,” Koen told reporters ahead of the hearing.
Pistorius is also expected to address the hearing and respond to the Steenkamp submissions, but the board decided to speak to him separately, Koen said.
Comprising at least three people, including prison services and community members, the board is to determine whether the purpose of imprisonment has been served, according to the Department of Correctional Services.
Known worldwide as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetics, Pistorius 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.
Prisoners in South Africa are automatically eligible for parole consideration after serving half of their sentence.
Pistorius has served more than half, having started his term in 2014.
His lawyer Julian Knight said he would not comment until after a decision on the parole was made.
Pistorius met with Steenkamp’s parents last year, part of a process that authorities say aims to ensure inmates “acknowledge the harm they have caused to their victims and the society at large”.
Koen described the meeting as “very emotional” and “traumatic”.
The board will consider whether Pistorius has been rehabilitated or still poses a danger to society, and review his conduct in prison, according to the correctional services.
A year before killing Steenkamp, Pistorius became the first double amputee to race in the Olympics, competing at the 2012 London Games.
He became a household name worldwide and courted by sponsors, but it all came crashing down after the killing.
Parole decisions are usually known the same day of the hearing or a day later, but the correctional services department had indicated that in Pistorius’ case it might not be taken on Friday.
If denied, he has the right to approach the courts for review.
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