Oscar Pistorius, a two-amputee Olympic sprinter who made world headlines after killing his girlfriend in 2013, may soon be released from prison on parole, South African correctional officials said Monday.
Mr. Pistorius shot his girlfriend Riva Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door in February 2013. He claimed that her death was an accident and that he fired a pistol, believing that an intruder had entered his upscale home in the suburbs of Pretoria. …
He was found guilty of manslaughter – later charged with murder – and sentenced to 15 years in prison. And on Monday, the Department of Corrections said Mr. Pistorius, 34, had served half of his sentence, automatically qualifying him for parole under South African law.
But first, Mr. Pistorius will have to face his victim’s parents as part of the parole review process – a prospect that grieved them Monday. The parents are “shocked and surprised” that they had to consider the athlete’s freedom earlier than they expected, the family lawyer said.
At one point, Mr. Pistorius was not eligible for parole until March 2023, but his lawyer asked the South African Supreme Court of Appeal to take into account the more than 500 days the athlete had already served in prison following his initial conviction for unintentional murder.
Mr. Pistorius was first sentenced to five years in prison under that sentence in 2014, but after the prosecutor’s office challenged the sentence, the Supreme Court of Appeal replaced him with a murder sentence. The judge increased the sentence to six years, but then prosecutors appealed, calling the sentence “too lenient” for the murder.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal more than doubled the sentence – to 15 years – the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa.
The jail “hit” the famous athlete who was once nicknamed the Blade Runner, said Julian Knight, a lawyer for Mr. Pistorius. “When Oscar is eventually released on parole, I don’t think he will be anywhere like Oscar who went to jail,” Mr. Knight said.
Mr. Pistorius, whose legs were amputated below the knees when he was an infant, gained worldwide fame by competing at the highest level using carbon fiber prostheses and won several gold medals at the Paralympic Games. After a long struggle with the sports authorities, he won the right to compete with fit athletes and competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but did not win a single medal.
Mr. Pistorius, who is serving his sentence at the Atteridgeville Correctional Center in Pretoria, has already completed several rehab programs to prepare for his parole, a Department of Corrections spokesman said.
He will also undergo psychological screening and meet with a social worker and religious leader prior to a vicarious-crime mediated dialogue with his victim’s parents, June and Barry Steenkamp. Only after that, the parole committee will consider his case.
The Steenkamps are preparing to face their daughter’s killer, but they can refuse it. The authorities have already contacted the family to begin the process.
Ms. Steenkamp has publicly stated that her Christian faith compels her to forgive Mr. Pistorius. Her husband was described as not finding the same closure.
“He always said he wanted this meeting because he had questions,” said Tanya Cohen, a lawyer for the Steenkamps.