Oscar Pistorius is released from prison on parole

Former sprinter to see out remaining six years of his sentence at uncle's Pretoria home

Oscar Pistorius being walked into his trial in 2016
Oscar Pistorius arrives at Pretoria High Court in June 2016 for sentencing. He was jailed for 13 years and five months
(Image credit: Getty Images/AFP / Stringer)

After serving nine years in prison for murder, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been released on parole. 

The double amputee and six-time Paralympic gold medallist "might be the most famous killer in the world" said the BBC, after he fatally shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day in 2013.

Pistorius will "effectively remain under house arrest" until his sentence ends in December 2029, said The Times. Steenkamp's mother, June, said that the terms of his parole did "send out a clear message that gender-based violence is taken seriously" by the country's justice system. 

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The background

Pistorius was "on top of the world" at the time of the murder, said The Telegraph. He had won gold medals at the Paralympic Games in 2004 and 2008 and then competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games "on his customised carbon fibre prostheses" against the world's "fastest able-bodied" athletes. It was the "the triumph of a boy who had two legs amputated below the knee" when he was 11 months old due to a congenital condition in childhood.

His story "became an inspiring example of humanity's ability to overcome a disability". But his "gilded life of red carpet events" ended just three months into his relationship with "one of the country's favourite daughters", Steenkamp, "when he opened fire in his Pretoria home" using a 9mm pistol. 

The prosecution at his trial argued the killing was premeditated and that he had shot the model after she had fled to the toilet after an the pair had an argument. Pistorius, who wept through most of his testimony, maintained he thought Steenkamp was a burglar. 

He was initially found not guilty of murder and instead convicted of culpable homicide – similar to manslaughter – and sentenced to five years in 2014. After he was released on house arrest, the Supreme Court of Appeal found him guilty of murder, ruling "he should have foreseen the possibility of killing someone when he fired shots into the bathroom".

The latest

Pistorius left Atteridgeville prison "before dawn" today and was driven to "a large guarded property" owned by his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, in the Waterkloof suburb of Pretoria, said The Times. He will live in a "garden cottage" as he sees out the rest of his sentence. 

"The exact terms of his parole have not been made public," said The Guardian, but it is known that the former athlete won't be allowed to drink alcohol or consume drugs, and he will be required to seek permission to travel or undertake any form of employment. He will also attend therapy sessions for anger and gender-based violence issues, and undertake community service. 

Pistorius's new living arrangements will be "a significant improvement" on prison, the newspaper continued. "The sprawling compound" is in "one of South Africa's most exclusive neighbourhoods" and "boasts a large swimming pool, landscaped gardens and a tennis court". 

He hasn't been pictured since his sentencing, but unconfirmed reports suggest "he has grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking", said The Telegraph, which makes him "unrecognisable from the elite athlete he once was". He will be unable to conduct media interviews while on parole.  

The reaction

Steenkamp's mother, June, said in November that she does not think Pistorius has shown any remorse, but that she had forgiven him "long ago, as I knew most certainly that I would not be able to survive if I had to cling to my anger", said the BBC. Her husband, Barry, died last year "utterly devastated by the thought that he had failed to protect his daughter", she said.

Bulelwa Adonis, of the campaign group Women for Change, said Pistorius's release indicates a "normalisation of leniency when it comes to predators, when it comes to anyone who commits any kind of femicide or gender-based violence". 

"His career as an athlete is over," said the BBC. "Brands will not want to sponsor him. He will not be sought out as a sports commentator." But the ban on media interviews will "eventually expire", and "his fame means he will find a platform". 

Following news of his release in November, the Daily Mail claimed Pistorius, a committed Christian, will study to become a preacher and will be "encouraged by his deeply law-abiding family to rationalise and find sanctity in God". 

And "after Johannesburg police received information that the city's underworld were out for revenge over Reeva's murder", he will also have to "keep an eye over his shoulder for the rest of his life", the Mail added.

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