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Oscar Pistorius is released from prison on parole in South Africa

South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius leaves the Pretoria High Court on June 15, 2016, after the third day of his resentencing hearing for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius is set to be released from Pretoria prison on Friday after serving nearly 11 years.
Gianluigi Guercia
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AFP via Getty Images
South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius leaves the Pretoria High Court on June 15, 2016, after the third day of his resentencing hearing for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius is set to be released from Pretoria prison on Friday after serving nearly 11 years.

Updated January 5, 2024 at 2:15 AM ET

JOHANNESBURG — Before his shocking arrest and conviction for murdering his model girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius was South Africa's golden boy — and an inspiration to many around the world.

Pistorius, who had his lower legs amputated as a baby, had become an Olympic sprinter whose high-tech prosthetics earned him the nickname "Blade Runner."

Now the 37-year-old athlete is back in the spotlight: on Friday he was released from prison on parole.

Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp through the locked bathroom door of his mansion in the South African city of Pretoria on Valentine's Day 2013, killing her.

He has always maintained he was acting in self-defense, saying he mistook her for a home intruder in a country with high crime.

The Steenkamp family and prosecution, however, painted a portrait of a macho and jealous man, who killed his girlfriend in cold blood during an argument.

After a lengthy televised trial that gripped the globe, and appeals and much legal wrangling, he was ultimately found guilty of murder and sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.

On Friday he walked out of the Pretoria prison, after serving half of his sentence, toward an uncertain future.

"Has there been justice for Reeva? Has Oscar served enough time?" Reeva's mother June Steenkamp said in a statement released Friday. "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."

Besides his athletic achievements, Pistorius was once known for his model girlfriends, fast car-driving, guns and parties. While in prison though, his father told Britain's The Times newspaper, Pistorius was studying the Bible.

He is expected to go to his uncle's house in Pretoria, where he will be monitored for the remainder of his sentence ending in 2029, South Africa's Department of Correctional Services said Wednesday ahead of Pistorius' release.

"An elevated public profile linked to Pistorius does not make him different from the other inmates nor warrant inconsistent treatment," said Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the department.

"The general parole conditions will apply to Pistorius. For example, he will be expected to be home at particular hours of the day. He may not consume alcohol or other prohibited substances," Nxumalo said, adding that he would not be allowed to give any interviews to media.

He said the former Olympian must also participate in several mandatory programs during his parole.

The mother of Reeva Steenkamp, June Steenkamp, arrives at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in Pretoria on March 31.
Phill Magakoe / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
The mother of Reeva Steenkamp, June Steenkamp, arrives at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in Pretoria on March 31, 2023.

After the November hearing when Pistorius was granted parole, a spokesman for the Steenkamp family told media that one of those programs was undergoing therapy for gender-based violence issues.

While the victim's mother June Steenkamp did not oppose parole, she did voice concerns that Pistorius had not been fully rehabilitated and could pose a threat to other women.

Steenkamp said Pistorius had not shown remorse and all her husband, Barry Steenkamp — who died last year of what she called "a broken heart" — had wanted was for Pistorius to admit what he did to their daughter.

"I do not believe Oscar's version that he thought the person in the toilet was a burglar," June Steenkamp said in that statement. "In fact, I do not know anybody who does."

South Africa has high rates of violence against women, with almost 900 women killed from July through September last year alone, according to official crime statistics.

Tania Koen, a lawyer for the Steenkamp family, told NPR of Pistorius' release: "It is our view that the conditions imposed, specifically with regards to gender-based violence courses, is an important one as it sends a clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated."

A defense lawyer for Pistorius could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kate Bartlett