Blade Runner’ Pistorius released on parole 11 years after murdering girlfriend

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PRETORIA, Jan 5 (Reuters) – South African former Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius was released on parole on Friday, nearly 11 years after murdering his girlfriend in a crime that shocked a nation long inured to violence against women.

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Pistorius – dubbed “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetic legs – shot 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp dead through a locked bathroom door on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

He has repeatedly said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four shots into the bathroom at his Pretoria home, and he launched multiple appeals against his conviction on that basis.

“The Department of Correctional Services (is) able to confirm that Oscar Pistorius is a parolee, effectively from 5 January 2024. He was admitted into the system of Community Corrections and is now at home,” the country’s prisons department said in a statement.

Pistorius, now 37, has spent about eight and a half years in jail as well as seven months under home arrest before he was sentenced for murder. A parole board in November decided he could be freed after completing more than half his sentence.

In a statement shared by the Steenkamp family lawyer on Friday, Reeva’s mother June said: “There can never be justice if your loved one is never coming back, and no amount of time served will bring Reeva back.”

“We, who remain behind, are the ones serving a life sentence,” June Steenkamp said, adding her only desire was to be allowed to live in peace after Pistorius’ release on parole.

A monitoring official will keep an eye on him until his sentence expires in December 2029, whom Pistorius will have to inform if he seeks job opportunities or moves to a new address.

He is also required to continue therapy on anger management and attend sessions on gender-based violence as part of his parole conditions , the Steenkamp family has said.

June Steenkamp said the conditions imposed by the parole board had affirmed her belief in the South African justice system as they send out a clear message that gender-based violence is taken seriously.

A lawyer for Pistorius did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his release on Friday.

Local media expect him to live at the home of his uncle Arnold Pistorius in a wealthy Pretoria suburb.

South Africans have shown mixed reactions to his release, with some feeling he has served his time, while others see his punishment as too lenient.

“He paid his price. Let him rebuild his life,” a local resident told reporters gathered outside his uncle’s home on Friday morning.

FROM PARALYMPIC STAR TO CONVICTED MURDERER

Pistorius was once the darling of the sports world, and a pioneering voice for disabled athletes, for whom he campaigned to be allowed to compete with able-bodied participants at major sports events.

In August 2012, mere months before shooting his girlfriend, Pistorius became the first double amputee to compete at the London Olympics, where he made it to the 400 metres semi-finals.

He won two gold medals at the Paralympics.

He was first jailed for five years in October 2014 for culpable homicide by a high court. After his prosecutors appealed that ruling, the Supreme Court of Appeal found him guilty of murder in December 2015. But he only got six years when he was sentenced in July 2016, despite prosecutors arguing for a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Then in November 2017 the Supreme Court of Appeal more than doubled his sentence to 13 years and five months, describing his earlier term as “shockingly lenient”.

Pistorius met Reeva’s father Barry Steenkamp in 2022 in a “victim-offender dialogue,” an integral part of South Africa’s restorative justice system.

Based partly on how indigenous cultures handled crime long before Europeans colonised South Africa, restorative justice aims to find closure for affected parties in a crime, instead of merely punishing perpetrators.

He was initially denied parole in March. However, the Constitutional Court subsequently ruled he had completed half of his sentence by March 21 and was eligible for parole after it was backdated to July 2016 when he was first sentenced for murder instead of November 2017.

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