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South African Paralympic gold medalist who killed his girlfriend will soon be freed

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The story of Oscar Pistorius captivated South Africa and the world. Here was a young athlete who defied the odds. Then, 10 years ago, Valentine's Day became a nightmare for his girlfriend. Today the saga took another turn. A parole board ruled that the convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius could walk free. Kate Bartlett reports.

KATE BARTLETT, BYLINE: After serving over half his 13-year sentence for murdering Reeva Steenkamp, Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius will be a free man in January after being granted parole. Correctional Services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said...

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SINGABAKHO NXUMALO: The parole placement for Mr. Oscar Pistorius has been confirmed effectively from the 5 of January 2024. Just like all other parolees, Mr. Pistorius will be monitored.

BARTLETT: The double amputee sprinter, dubbed Blade Runner for his high-tech prosthetics, had been an inspiration for many before he shot Steenkamp four times through the closed bathroom door of his Pretoria home on Valentine's Night 2013. The athlete, now 37, has always maintained he hadn't known it was her and had shot at what he thought was an intruder in a country with notoriously high crime rates. That claim was ultimately dismissed by the courts. After years of legal wrangling in a trial that was televised, he was found guilty of murder. This year, under South African law, he became eligible for parole. Steenkamp's mother, June, did not attend the parole hearing, saying she didn't want to see her daughter's killer again. However, she had a family friend read a statement for her ahead of the decision. She said Reeva's father, Barry, had died a few months ago of a broken heart. While she did not technically oppose Pistorius' release, she regretted that Pistorius had never admitted what he'd done.

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ROB MATTHEWS: I'm not convinced that Oscar has been rehabilitated. If someone does not show remorse, they cannot be considered to be rehabilitated.

BARTLETT: She also said she was concerned for the safety of women if he was not properly rehabilitated. One of the conditions of his parole is that Pistorius undergo therapy for gender-based violence issues. Tania Koen, a lawyer for the Steenkamps, spoke to NPR after the decision.

TANIA KOEN: June is satisfied with the conditions imposed by the parole board because it means that they paid attention to what she was saying, and she sees this as a victory for victim participation.

BARTLETT: South Africa has high rates of violence against women, with almost 900 women murdered in the three months between July and September, according to police statistics. For NPR News, I'm Kate Bartlett in Johannesburg.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUJO'S "MEDICAL FLY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kate Bartlett