Athletics: Oscar Pistorius sent distressing letter to victim’s family in parole bid

Oscar Pistorius, who murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at home on Valentine’s Day in 2013, sent her parents a “distressing” letter as part of his bid for parole, the Daily Mirror reports.

The family lawyer said that, while they cannot reveal the contents of the letter, it was “like ripping a Band-Aid off a wound”.

Pistorius, a world-famous double-amputee athlete who competed at the 2012 Olympics, has been eligible for parole since July after he was convicted of murder for shooting model Reeva Steenkamp multiple times through a toilet door in his home on Valentine’s Day 2013.

As part of the bid for parole, all prisoners in South Africa must “acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions”.

Pistorius wrote the letter to Reeva’s parents, Barry and June, in an attempt to have his parole approved.

“It was quite emotionally distressing for them. They did not know it was coming and it was sent to me by his attorney,” the family’s lawyer, Tania Koen, told the Mirror.

Before having his parole granted, Pistorius must also meet with Barry and June Steenkamp.

The Steenkamps have previously said they want to challenge Pistorius on why he shot their daughter and they would get to do that, with victim-offender meetings aimed at achieving some kind of closure for families of victims of crimes.

A parole hearing for Pistorius was scheduled for last month and then cancelled, partly because a meeting between Pistorius and Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, had not been arranged, lawyers for both parties told the Associated Press earlier this month.

Corrections department officials scheduled the parole hearing for October but it was called off when a full report on Pistorius’ time in prison wasn’t available, said Julian Knight, a lawyer for Pistorius.

The date for a new hearing had not yet been set, Knight said.

It was a “huge surprise” for the Steenkamps when corrections services officials contacted them last month to say Pistorius was eligible for parole, Koen said. They believed he would only be eligible in 2023, she said.

“[It] opens a lot of wounds, or rips off the plasters they had put on those wounds,” Koen said.

The confusion over when he would be eligible emanated from Pistorius’ long and protracted murder trial and two subsequent appeals by prosecutors. Pistorius went on trial in 2014 and his case was only finalised in 2018.

The multiple Paralympic champion was initially found guilty of culpable homicide — an offense comparable to manslaughter — for shooting Steenkamp with his licensed 9mm pistol. He claimed at his trial it was a tragic accident and he mistook her for a dangerous intruder.

– with AP

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