Former South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius was released on parole on Friday.
Pistorius, a double amputee, was one of only 10 athletes ever to have competed in both the Paralympics and the Olympics.
He won numerous medals in the Paralympics and qualified for the Olympic Games while wearing prosthetic blades in a storied career.
Pistorius was jailed for the murder of his then-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a model and reality television star.
Pistorius fired four shots at Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door at his Pretoria, South Africa, home on February 14, 2013. The athlete maintained that Steenkamp’s death wasn’t a premeditated murder and it was an accident as he mistook her as an intruder.
Pistorius was arrested, charged and initially convicted of culpable homicide in September 2014 but was let off the more serious charge of murder.
Pistorius first went to prison in October 2014, shortly after his initial conviction. He was released under house arrest between 2015 and 2016, before his conviction was changed and sentence lengthened.
The Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2015 overturned the earlier ruling and found Pistorius guilty of murder.
The Supreme Court eventually more than doubled his sentence to 13 years and 5 months in November 2017, accepting state prosecutors’ argument that the original jail term was lenient.
Judges observed that Pistorius’ version of events was ‘inconsistent and improbable’ and that he had ‘fired without having a rational or genuine fear that his life was in danger.’
Parole conditions in South Africa
Under South African law, all offenders are entitled to be considered for parole, meaning early release under certain conditions, once they have served half their total sentence, which for Pistorius was finally set at 13 years and five months.
Pistorius will live under strict rules confining him to the home for certain hours of the day, as well as banning him from drinking alcohol, till the sentence expires in 2029.
Not permitted to speak to the media, Pistorius will also be required to have therapy to help deal with issues around gender-based violence and anger.
Pistorius is believed to have gone to live at the home of his uncle Arnold Pistorius in an upmarket suburb of the capital, Pretoria.
While in prison, Pistorius drove a tractor in the grounds, worked in the library and cleaned inmates’ cells, according to legal documents.
Officials confirmed Pistorius was ‘at home’ on Friday morning, having served half of his sentence.
Ms Steenkamp’s mother said she ‘accepted the decision’ to release the former athlete but added her family was the one ‘serving a life sentence.’
She said in a statement that the family had ‘always known that parole is part of the South African legal system’ and had ‘always said that the law must take its course.’
Mrs Steenkamp said she welcomed the conditions imposed by the parole board, which ‘affirmed Barry and my belief in the South African justice system,’ referring to her late husband.
She added however, asking ‘Has there been justice for Reeva? Has Oscar served enough time? 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.’
‘My only desire is that I will be allowed to live my last years in peace with my focus remaining on the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation, to continue Reeva’s legacy.’ she said.
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp: Life and Career
Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was less than a year old due to a congenital condition, he was born with no fibulas, the smaller of the two lower leg bones.
Pistorius subsequently relied on prosthetics and became a world-renowned athlete known as the ‘blade runner.’
He had a successful career on the track, first at the Paralympics, winning multiple golds, and then made headlines in the world of sport when he competed against non-disabled athletes at the London Olympics in 2012.
He was hailed as a champion and role model for many budding sportspersons.
The murder of Ms Steenkamp just six months later, and the subsequent trials, shocked many and dominated the news, as Pistorius’ life took a turn.
Reeva Steenkamp, who was 29 when she died, was a law graduate and successful model who also worked as a TV presenter and appeared in a reality show called ‘Tropika Island of Treasure.’ She was described by friends as a ‘kind, ambitious person,’
Ms Steenkamp was three months into her relationship with Pistorius at the time of her passing. She had planned to start a law firm to help abused women after graduating.
South Africa’s department of correctional services said that despite his high public profile, the former star will be treated like anyone else on parole.
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