Former South African Paralympic and Olympic athlete shot model dead through locked bathroom door on Valentine’s Day in 2013
Oscar Pistorius has been released from prison on parole, after serving nine years for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in a crime that shocked the world.
Pistorius, a former Paralympic and Olympic athlete, shot the 29-year-old model dead through a locked bathroom door on Valentine’s Day in 2013.
He will be subject to correctional supervision until his sentence ends in 2029. Pistorius is expected to live at his uncle’s home in Waterkloof, an upmarket suburb of South Africa’s capital Pretoria, and to attend programmes on gender-based violence and anger management.
He will not be allowed to drink alcohol, and will have to get permission to travel or take up employment, which makes it unlikely he will return to the running track soon. The exact terms of his parole have not been made public.
In a statement shared by the Steenkamp family lawyer on Friday, Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, 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.” She added that her only desire was to be allowed to live in peace.
She has written previously about how her grief was compounded by the relentless media scrutiny that accompanied her daughter’s murder. The Steenkamps were forced to move house, and were nearly bankrupted by legal fees.
So intense was the fascination with Pistorius’s fall from grace that a local broadcaster set up a new TV channel dedicated to the ins and outs of the case. This interest was not limited to South Africa: journalists from all over the world flocked to the high court in Pretoria, forcing the judiciary to limit the media presence in the courtroom.
“It was such a big story. There was so much interest that it became quite ugly,” Mandy Wiener, co-author of Behind the Door: The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story, said on a recent podcast. “People were very emotionally invested, so they were very polarised on social media, very aggressive, very personal attacks.”
Reeva Steenkamp: the model and campaigner who was killed by Oscar Pistorius – video profile
Pistorius was initially acquitted of murder and convicted of culpable homicide – the equivalent of manslaughter – in 2014, and started a five-year jail sentence.
In October 2014, he was released to house arrest to serve the rest of his sentence at his uncle’s home. But in December of the same year, the supreme court of appeal overturned the lower judge’s ruling and found Pistorius guilty of murder, arguing he should have foreseen the possibility of killing someone when he fired the shots.
In 2016 he was sentenced to six years in prison, less than half the 15-year minimum term sought by prosecutors. The following year, the supreme court ruled that sentence was “shockingly lenient” and raised it to 15 years, minus time already served.
“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 on Friday.
The department said that Pistorius would not be permitted to speak to media. “I think he’ll keep an incredibly low profile. I’ll be surprised if he tries to rehabilitate his public persona,” said Wiener.
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 was taken seriously.
Pistorius’s early release has highlighted the broader issue of gender-based violence in South Africa – an issue that was close to Steenkamp’s heart, according to her friends and family. Bulelwa Adonis, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Women for Change, said releasing Pistorius early sent “the wrong message” to potential offenders.
Pistorius was one of the most recognisable names in world sport when he fatally shot Steenkamp, a paralegal and model, four times through the bathroom door of their Pretoria home. He was a six-time gold medal winner in the Paralympics, and qualified for the Olympic Games while wearing prosthetic blades – one of only 10 athletes ever to have competed in both competitions.
Pistorius claimed he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, but after a lengthy trial, a judge disagreed.
He began his sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru maximum security prison in Pretoria, where he attended Bible study classes and was filmed playing football with another notorious prisoner, the organised crime boss Radovan Krejčíř. He was later moved to the Atteridgeville correctional centre, which is usually reserved for non-violent offenders but was thought better-equipped to handle an inmate with disabilities. He had his own cell with an en suite bathroom and access to a vegetable patch to grow his own food. Media reports suggest that he has lost his fitness while in prison, and grown a beard.
Conditions at the home of his uncle, Arnold Pistorius – a three-storey mansion worth an estimated R20m (£840,000) – will be a significant improvement. The sprawling compound in one of South Africa’s most exclusive neighbourhoods boasts a large swimming pool, landscaped gardens and a tennis court. Pistorius is expected to live in a cottage in the grounds of the mansion. Extra security was installed in anticipation of his arrival.