Disgraced Paralympian Oscar Pistorius could be released from prison in South Africa ‘within weeks’ after serving half his sentence for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home.
A parole board will consider Pistorius’s case on March 31, just over a decade after he fatally shot Ms. Steenkamp four times through his bathroom door in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day.
Ms Steenkamp’s parents, who oppose the idea of releasing their daughter’s killer, have no power to block it, as criminals are automatically eligible for parole after serving half their sentence .
Pistorius, 36, claimed at trial that he thought Ms Steenkamp was an intruder, but was eventually found guilty of murder and sentenced to 13 years and five months.
The announcement of the parole hearing comes after it was revealed that the ex-athlete will be given 24-hour police protection upon release, fearing retaliatory attacks.
Oscar Pistorius (right), now 36, murdered his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp (left) on Valentine’s Day in 2013
Mrs Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, initially forgave Pistorius but now want him to spend his life behind bars
Pistorius’ father, Henke, has now said in an interview with The Times that his son had become a spiritual leader behind bars. He claims he even recruited a violent gang leader into his Bible study and prayer group.
“I have no doubt that Oscar has changed the prison environment for the better,” he said.
‘He mediates between people and has a positive influence. He can feel that he is making a difference to others who really needed a difference – to give their lives meaning, purpose and some hope.
“It has also improved for him as a result. It’s a beautiful story.’
Meanwhile, on the tenth anniversary of Mrs. Steenkamp’s death, her parents Barry and June made it known that they want Pistorius to spend life behind bars.
The couple initially forgave her ex-boyfriend for the murder, but changed their mind after he refused to admit that he killed her out of anger, as the court ruled.
Barry said: ‘I told Oscar directly that he deliberately shot my daughter and he denied it. He stuck to his story that he thought it was an intruder.
“After all these years, we are still waiting for him to admit that he did it out of anger. That’s all we wanted.
“If he had told me the truth, he would have been a free man by now and I would have let the law take its course on his parole.
“But I was wasting my time. He’s a murderer. He should stay in prison.’
The South African athlete, nicknamed Blade Runner for his racing prosthetics, was an acclaimed Paralympian prior to the murder
Pistorius was initially convicted of wrongful manslaughter before an appeals court found him guilty of murder – but he was initially only sentenced to six years in prison for the murder of Ms Steenkamp
Nicknamed the Blade Runner for his racing prosthetics, the South African athlete agreed to meet the Steenkamps in prison as part of South Africa’s victim-offender dialogue program.
He was flown from Pretoria in June last year to a detention center close to their home in Port Elizabeth.
Mr. Steenkamp, who is in poor health, was willing to see Pistorius and hear “what he had to say.”
Ultimately, 76-year-old June, who is originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, decided not to attend.
Instead, she wrote a letter which she gave to her husband to read to Pistorius.
She told MailOnline, “I couldn’t see myself going without hurting him. I didn’t want to go to jail for assaulting him. That would have been a great option.
‘It hasn’t gotten any better. It gets worse as time goes by because we miss Reeva every day that she is not with us.
“It’s very, very stressful that she couldn’t spend our last days with us because he took her.”
The legal representatives of the Steenkamp have continuously challenged the amount of time Pistorius had to serve.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria sentenced him to six years in prison in October 2014.
The multiple Paralympic champion was initially found guilty of wrongful death – an offense similar to manslaughter – for shooting Steenkamp with his licensed 9mm handgun.
He claimed at his trial that it was a tragic accident and he mistook her for a dangerous intruder.
But prosecutors appealed the manslaughter finding and secured a murder conviction.
Pistorius was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison for murder, prompting prosecutors to appeal again against what they called a shockingly light sentence for murder.
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at the Feather Awards held at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg on November 4, 2012
South Africa’s Supreme Court then more than doubled his sentence in 2017 to 13 years and five months in prison.
He would face serious threats to his own life if he is released at the end of March.
The athlete, who had a stash of 10 firearms, including an AK-47, had already entered the radar of Johannesburg’s underworld before the shooting for threatening one of the city’s notoriously tough men.
Known as The Blade Runner after his racing prosthesis, Pistorius had shot a gun out of a car’s sunroof and fired a gun at a restaurant a few weeks before killing 29-year-old Reeva, which brought him into the focus of the underworld.
At his trial, Johannesburg hardman and former professional footballer Marc Batchelor was a witness for the prosecution and a menacing figure in the public gallery when he spoke of his contempt for the athlete.
Batchelor was threatened by Pistorius, who said he was going to “break his legs” over an argument over a woman. Batchelor had also been a friend of Reeva’s and called for life imprisonment for the athlete.
Officers will contact Pistorius’ family about how best to protect him from harm once he wins his freedom and offer their support.
A police source told MailOnline: ‘Pistorius killed a young woman and that in itself is a big no-no as far as Johannesburg’s criminal fraternity is concerned.
He had also threatened Batchelor, who still has many friends in town and has a great dislike for Oscar Pistorius.
“Oscar is a murderer, but once he has served his sentence, he should be able to rebuild his life and live safely.
“The police, of course, do not like murderers, but they deserve full protection from any evil and that is what will be given to him.
South Africa cannot afford to link any more violence to Pistorius and the police will work very hard to ensure his safety.
“We have received information that there are those who say he deserved to pay for killing a young woman.”