PRETORIA: South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius was refused parole on Friday after seeking early release from prison, a decade after he shot and killed his girlfriend, lawyers and authorities said.
The Department of Correctional Services said a parole board found Pistorius had not completed the minimum detention period required to be let out.
“We were... advised at this point in time that it has been denied” and it will be considered again in one year’s time, Tania Koen, a lawyer for the victim’s family, told AFP.
The motivation came as a surprise and was described as “extraordinary” by legal experts, as the correctional services had previously said Pistorius was eligible for early release having served more than half his sentence.
Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp, a model, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, firing four times through the bathroom door of his ultra-secure Pretoria house, in a killing that shocked the world.
A parole hearing opened Friday morning at the jail on the outskirts of the capital where the 36-year-old is detained.
Steenkamp’s parents, who opposed an early release, saying they do not believe the ex-athlete told the truth about what happened and has not shown remorse, welcomed the decision.
“While we welcome today’s decision, today is not a cause for celebration. We miss Reeva terribly and will do so for the rest of our lives. We believe in justice and hope that it continues to prevail,” they said in a statement via their lawyer.
Earlier, Steenkamp’s mother, June, had made the couple’s position known to the board addressing the hearing in person.
“I don’t believe his story,” she told journalists from the back of a car as she arrived at the correctional facility.
She did not meet face to face with her daughter’s killer on Friday, as the parole board decided to hear the two separately, Koen later told reporters outside the prison.
“It was very unpleasant for her... but she knew that she had to do it for Reeva,” Koen said.
Steenkamp’s father Barry was unable to travel because of ill health but submitted a statement, she added.
“Before he dies he has one wish and that’s Oscar would just tell us exactly what happened that night,” Carmen Dodd, who read the statement to the board, told journalists.
Comprising at least three people, including prison services and community members, the board was to determine whether the purpose of imprisonment had been served, according to the Department of Correctional Services.
“The (board) granted inmate Pistorius a further profile for August 2024,” correctional services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said in a statement.
“The reason provided is that the inmate did not complete the minimum Detention Period as ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal.”
In a short memo dated Tuesday and seen by AFP on Friday, the court explained that the prison term it imposed started on the day of the last judgment in 2017 and not when Pistorius was first sentenced in 2014.
“It’s an extraordinary decision, in fact, it seems completely implausible,” said Kelly Phelps, a law professor at the University of Cape Town, adding the court’s memo backtracked on previous interpretations of its own ruling.
As a consequence, the parole hearing went ahead when it should not have, she said.
“The whole process put so much unnecessary trauma for both sides. But at the same time, justice prevails,” added Koen.
Known worldwide as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber prosthetics, Pistorius was found guilty of murder and given a 13-year jail sentence in 2017 after a lengthy trial and several appeals.
He had pleaded not guilty and denied killing Steenkamp in a rage, saying he mistook her for a burglar.
Pistorius met with Steenkamp’s parents last year, part of a process that authorities say aims to ensure inmates “acknowledge the harm they have caused to their victims and the society at large.”
Koen described the meeting as “very emotional” and “traumatic.”
A year before killing Steenkamp, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to race in the Olympics, competing at the 2012 London Games.
He became a household name worldwide and courted by sponsors, but it all came crashing down after the killing.
Inmates have the right to approach the courts for review when parole is denied.