Lawyer: Steenkamp’s parents to oppose parole for Pistorius
By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME and GERALD IMRAY
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The parents of Reeva Steenkamp, the woman Oscar Pistorius shot dead 10 years ago, still don’t believe his account of their daughter’s killing and will oppose the former Olympic runner’s application for parole, their lawyer said Friday.
“Unless he comes clean, they don’t feel that he is rehabilitated,” lawyer Tania Koen told reporters outside the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre prison in Pretoria, where Pistorius has been held since 2016 and where his parole hearing is due to take place on Friday.
Pistorius, a double-amputee runner and multiple Paralympic champion who made history by competing against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 Olympics, was convicted of murder for the Valentine’s Day 2013 shooting of Reeva Steenkamp at his home.
Pistorius has always claimed he shot his girlfriend by mistake thinking she was an intruder in his home. But her parents, Barry and June Steenkamp, have said they still believe he killed her intentionally in anger after an argument.
Pistorius fired four shots with his licensed 9 mm pistol through a toilet cubicle door in his upscale Pretoria home to kill the 29-year-old Steenkamp, a model and reality TV star, in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013.
Pistorius, who is now 36, was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017 after a series of appeals in his case. He is eligible for parole under South African law after having served half his sentence.
Koen said Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, would submit written and oral statements at Friday’s hearing opposing Pistorius’ application to be released from prison. June Steenkamp sat in the back seat of a car nearby while Koen addressed reporters outside the prison gates. June Steenkamp and Koen were then driven into the prison in a Department of Corrections vehicle.
“She doesn’t feel that he must be released,” Koen said. A decade after their daughter’s killing, Koen said time “hasn’t healed” the grief for Barry and June.
“He’s the killer of their daughter. For them, it’s a life sentence,” Koen said. “For them, it’s 10 missed birthdays, 10 Mother’s Days, 10 Father’s Days, 10 Christmases.”
Submissions from a victim’s relative are just one of the factors a parole board takes into account when deciding if an offender can be released early on parole.
According to guidelines, the board will also consider the offense Pistorius was convicted of, his conduct and disciplinary record while in prison, whether he took part in educational or other training courses, his mental and physical state, whether he’s likely to “relapse into crime” and the risk he poses to the public.
Of all the factors, legal experts say that the behavior of Pistorius while in prison would likely be the most important consideration.
Pistorius’ parole lawyer, Julian Knight, has previously said Pistorius has been a “model prisoner.” He didn’t respond to messages seeking comment ahead of the parole hearing.
A number of options are available to the parole board: Pistorius could be released on full parole or placed on day parole, where he would be allowed to live and work in the community during the day but have to return to prison at night. He could also be placed under correctional supervision, which means he would be released but have to spend some of his time during the week at a correctional center.
Pistorius’ parole could be denied, where the board usually asks the offender to reapply at a later stage.
Once hailed as an inspirational figure for overcoming the adversity of his disability, Pistorius’ murder trial and downfall captivated the world. His conviction eventually led to him being sent to the Kgosi Mampuru II maximum security prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious.
He was moved to the Atteridgeville prison in 2016 because that facility is better suited to disabled prisoners. Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was a baby because of a congenital condition and he walks with prosthetics.
There have been glimpses of his life in prison, with reports claiming he had at one point grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking and was unrecognizable from the world-famous athlete he once was.
He has spent much of his time working in an area of the prison grounds where vegetables are grown, sometimes driving a tractor. His father, Henke Pistorius, said in a 2018 interview that he was running bible classes for other inmates.
There have also been flashes of trouble. Pistorius sustained an injury in an altercation with another inmate over a public telephone at the prison in 2017. A year earlier, Pistorius received treatment for injuries to his wrists, which his family denied were a result of him harming himself and were a result of him falling in his cell.
A decision on Pistorius’ parole could come on Friday but is more likely to take days to finalize.
Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa