Johannesburg – South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius could be considered for parole, after serving half his sentence for murdering his girlfriend, an official and a lawyer said on Monday.
The athlete shot dead model Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013 when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet.
Pistorius was found guilty of manslaughter in 2014 and sentenced to six years, but the conviction was later upgraded to murder, with a 13-year term.
By July this year, the 34-year-old had served half the term, the minimum period to be considered for parole, according to the victim’s family lawyer.
The Correctional Services department was due to hold preliminary talks with Steenkamp’s parents, but the meeting was postponed and has yet to be rescheduled.
Before the parole process can begin, the department needs to conduct a dialogue with the victim’s family and the offender.
“There is the issue of victim-offender dialogue that needs to take place before his profile can be taken to the parole board,” prisons spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo told AFP. “It’s quite a sensitive and emotional process.”
Tania Koen, lawyer for the Steenkamps, said the parole board had been due to discuss his parole on October 27 or 29.
“But because certain requirements were not met, they have stopped the process and they will have to make sure they have the necessary reports,” including talks with the victim’s family, the offender and supply of psychologist and social worker reports, she said.
‘Opens the wound’
“He has been eligible for parole since July of this year,” said Koen, “but that does not mean he has automatic right to be released on parole.”
The year before he killed Steenkamp, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to race at the Olympics when he took part In the London 2012 Games. He competed on prosthetic blades – a feat that had earned him the nickname Blade Runner.
Pistorius became a role model for disabled people worldwide until his televised murder trial, which fixated South Africans and generated international headlines.
He has always maintained that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four high-calibre bullets through a locked toilet cubicle.
Koen said the reaction of Reeva’s parents June and Barry Steenkamp was one of shock when they were first contacted by the prisons services.
“But over that shock, they were distraught, especially after the department cancelled the meeting. That was a double blow,” said Koen. “It opens the wound.”
Earlier on Monday, Pistorius’ father Henke told a local TV news network, eNCA, “Our compassion and condolences go out to them all the time”.
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