Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Who is Oscar Pistorius? From ‘blade runner’ to convicted murderer

The trial of “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius gripped the world in 2014 when he was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. 

Pistorius has now served half his sentence and on Friday he faces a second chance at parole after he was ruled ineligible for early release from prison in March.

Who is Oscar Pistorius?

Oscar Pistorius is a former Olympic and Paralympic athlete and a convicted murderer.

He was born in South Africa in 1986. At 11 months old, both his legs were amputated below the knee because of a congenital defect.

He ran on prosthetic blades – hence the nickname Blade Runner.

Until 2013, he was mostly known for his sporting prowess, winning gold at the Paralympics and making history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.

Then, on the morning of 14 February 2013, Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend at his home in Pretoria, South Africa.

The murder of Reeva Steenkamp

Ms Steenkamp, 29, was shot dead by Pistorius while she was in the toilet.

Pistorius has always insisted the shooting was a mistake, saying he thought an intruder was in the house and he feared for his safety.

He fired four shots through a locked toilet door, hitting Ms Steenkamp in the head, hip and arm.

Pistorius claimed in court it was only when he battered down the door with a cricket bat that he realised who was behind it.

The prosecution argued the murder was premeditated and Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp after an argument.

Part of their argument rested on saying Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic legs at the time of the shooting – they said the time taken to put them on was evidence of premeditation.

Pistorius testified he was on his stumps, a claim that was backed up by a ballistic expert’s analysis.

Oscar Pistorius demonstrating to the court how he walks without his prosthetic legs

Changing charges and sentences

Pistorius was initially not found guilty of murder and was instead convicted of culpable homicide (the equivalent of a manslaughter charge in the UK).

He was sentenced to five years in 2014, and was eventually released from prison and placed under house arrest.

A year later, that conviction was overturned when South Africa’s supreme court of appeal found him guilty of murder.

He was sentenced to six years – which was then increased to 13 years and five months after the sentence was deemed “shockingly too lenient” in an appeal.

A picture taken on January 26, 2013 shows Olympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend  Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. South Africa's Olympic sprinter Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius was taken into police custody on February 14, 2013, after allegedly shooting dead his model girlfriend having mistaken her for an intruder at his upscale home. AFP PHOTO / WALDO SWIEGERS        (Photo credit should read WALDO SWIEGERS/AFP via Getty Images)
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp pictured weeks before his death

Parole hearings

Pistorius faces the prospect of getting out of prison early after serving half his jail sentence of 13 years and five months.

In South Africa, prisoners become eligible for parole after serving half their sentence.

The parole board will consider his case again on Friday after denying him parole in March.

The decision to give him a second parole hearing came after his lawyer took his case to the Constitutional Court over errors made by the court in calculating when Pistorius would be eligible for parole.

He was initially told he would only be eligible in August 2024, when he was in fact eligible in March.

Granting a second hearing was seen as effectively an admission of the appeal court’s error.

Read more:
Pistorius ‘not remorseful or rehabilitated’, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother says
Oscar Pistorius injured in prison fight over phone

Pistorius is not guaranteed to be granted early release.

The parole board takes a number of factors into account, including his conduct and disciplinary record in prison, his mental health and the likelihood of him committing another crime.

He could be released on full parole or placed on day parole, where he would be allowed to live and work in the community but have to return to prison at night.

Last year he met with Ms Steenkamp’s father as part of a process called victim-offender dialogue, which gives crime victims the chance to meet with offenders before they become eligible for parole.

Speaking ahead of the first parole hearing, Ms Steenkamp’s mother said he was “not remorseful”.

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