South Africa’s Pistorius seeks parole decade after killing girlfriend
A parole hearing began Friday that could see South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius released from prison early, a decade after he shot and killed his girlfriend.
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.
Lawyers for Steenkamp’s family arrived at the correctional facility on the outskirts of the capital, where the hearing was taking place, amid a heavy media presence.
Steenkamp’s mother, June, is to appear before the board to “make representations” also on behalf of her husband, Barry, who is unable to travel because of ill health, lawyer Tania Koen said.
“They don’t feel that he should be released. They feel that he has shown no remorse,” she told reporters outside the prison.
Pistorius, 36, is being held at the same facility, where the parole board was scheduled to convene for a closed-door session at 10:00 am (0800 GMT).
Pistorius is also expected to address the hearing and respond to the Steenkamps’ submissions, Koen said.
“As you can imagine it’s painful. June has to face Oscar Pistorius again this morning. He is the killer of her daughter,” she 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.
– ‘Traumatic’ –
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 that he killed 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 admired 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 has indicated that in Pistorius’ case it might not be taken on Friday.
If denied, he has the right to approach the courts for review.