Oscar Pistorius, the disgraced South African Paralympian who murdered his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day 10 years ago, was granted parole at a hearing on Friday and will be released.
A double amputee sprinter known as the “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic legs, Pistorius, 37, was convicted of fatally shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked bathroom door at his home in Pretoria in 2013.
Pistorius was told at a hearing in Pretoria, the administrative capital where he has been held, that he will be released on Jan. 5, 2024.
A model and law graduate, Steenkamp was 29. Tania Koen, a lawyer who has represented the Steenkamps throughout the parole process and Pistorius’ appeals, confirmed to NBC News that parole was granted.
South Africa’s Correctional Services Department said in a statement that the parole board had made its decision after assessing Pistorius’ profile and deciding that he had a “positive support system.” He may be subject to rehabilitation programs aimed at reintegrating him with society, the statement said.
Pistorius during his murder trial at the high court in Pretoria. Mike Hutchings / AFP via Getty Images file Pistorius had been denied parole at a hearing in March after a judge ruled that, despite expectations that parole would be granted, he had not served the minimum time needed to qualify. The judge in that hearing said he wouldn’t be considered for parole until August 2024.
The 2014 trial attracted global attention as the details of Steenkamp’s death were beamed around the world. It immediately ended the career of Pistorius, then perhaps the world’s most high-profile disabled athlete, who made history by competing in an able-bodied field at the Olympics.
Pistorius claimed he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar and shot her in error. As a condition of the parole process, Pistorius met with Steenkamp’s father, Barry, in June 2022. Her family opposed his release because they reject Pistorius’ account of their daughter’s killing.
Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, said in a victim impact statement released by the court that she still did not believe Pistorius’ explanation.
“My dearest child screamed for her life; loud enough for the neighbors to hear her. I do not know what gave rise to his choice to shoot through a closed door at somebody with hollow-point ammunition when I believe, he knew it was Reeva,” she wrote.
June Steenkamp added that she was not attending the parole hearing Friday, as “I simply cannot muster the energy to face him again at this stage,” adding that she does not consider Pistorius to be rehabilitated.
Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father, died in September this year after suffering a stroke.
“My dear Barry left this world utterly devastated by the thought that he had failed to protect his daughter and therefore in his role as father, as he perceived it,” Steenkamp wrote.
As Pistorius has not yet served his full sentence of 13 years and five months, he will likely be forced to wear an electronic security tag and be banned from leaving Gauteng Province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The Correctional Services Department’s statement only said Pistorius would be “subjected to supervision in compliance with parole conditions until his sentence expires.”
Originally, Pistorius was sentenced to six years in jail for murder, but prosecutors then appealed what they called a “shockingly lenient” punishment and the sentence was increased.
Born with a congenital condition that led to both his legs being amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, Pistorius became a successful athlete, leading out the South African team at the 2012 London Olympics’ opening ceremony. Days later he would become the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics.
Those watching the 2014 trial heard that Pistorius had a gun with him “all the time,” including on his bedside table while he slept. He told the court that he lived in fear of a home invasion and said he had been followed, shot at and hijacked. When he shot Steenkamp, he had assumed it was a burglar, he said.
In the victim impact statement, June Steenkamp said that while Reeva may not have had a chance to follow her dreams, she leaves a rich legacy.
“It has taken me 10 years to realize that Reeva appeared to have fulfilled her destiny during her life and more abundantly so in her tragic death,” she wrote.
“Reeva’s name and her demise continue to raise awareness around gender-based violence worldwide.”
Patrick Smith is a London-based editor and reporter for NBC News Digital.