Former Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius was denied parole Friday and will have to stay in prison at least another 16 months after it was decided that he had not served the “minimum detention period” required to be released after his murder conviction for the 2013 killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The parole board hearing Pistorius’ application ruled that he would be able to apply again in August 2024, South Africa’s Department of Corrections said in a statement. The board cited a clarification on Pistorius’ sentence that was issued by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal three days ago, according to the statement.
On Feb. 14, 2013, Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp, a model and law student, in his bathroom. He had told the court he believed Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her several times.
Pistorius shot four times with his licensed 9 mm pistol through a closed toilet cubicle door in his bathroom, where Steenkamp was, hitting her multiple times. Pistorius said he didn’t realize his girlfriend had gotten out of bed and gone to the bathroom.
There has been legal wrangling over when Pistorius, 36, should be eligible for parole because of the series of appeals in his case. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter, in 2014, but the case went through a number of appeals, including by the prosecution, before Pistorius was finally sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017.
Serious offenders must serve at least half their sentence to be eligible for parole in South Africa. Pistorius’ lawyers had gone to court to argue that he was now eligible because he had served the required portion of time in jail from late 2014 after his culpable homicide conviction.
“Come August 2024, he would have reached the minimum detention period, then the [parole] board will make a decision,” prison spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said. “He will have to appear again next year. And then we look into the profile and make a decision in terms of his placement. But for now, it was a matter of saying he has not served the minimum detention period.”
June Steenkamp, the mother of Reeva Steenkamp, attended Pistorius’ hearing Friday to oppose his parole. Reeva Steenkamp’s parents have said that they still do not believe Pistorius’ account of their daughter’s killing and that they think he killed her intentionally after a late-night argument.
The Steenkamps’ lawyer, Tania Koen, said the denied parole was a “huge sense of relief for June.”
“While we welcome today’s decision, today is not a cause for celebration,” Koen said on behalf of Reeva’s parents. “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.”
Koen said the Steenkamps believed Pistorius could not be considered to be rehabilitated “unless he comes clean” over the killing.
“He’s the killer of their daughter. For them, it’s a life sentence,” Koen said before the hearing.
June Steenkamp made her submission to the parole board in a separate room to Pistorius and did not come face-to-face with her daughter’s killer, Koen said. Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father, did not travel for the hearing because of poor health but a family friend read out a statement to the parole board on his behalf, the parents’ lawyer said.
Pistorius’ lawyer, Julian Knight, was not available for comment after Friday’s hearing.
Pistorius, known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, was a six-time Paralympic gold medalist who competed in the 2012 London Olympics, reaching the semifinals of the 400 meters and carrying the South African flag in the closing ceremony.
Pistorius’ lower legs were amputated when he was a baby because of a congenital condition, and he walks with prosthetics.
Pistorius’ father, Henke Pistorius, told the Pretoria News newspaper before the hearing that his family hoped he would be home soon.
“Deep down, we believe he will be home soon,” Henke Pistorius said, “but until the parole board has spoken the word, I don’t want to get my hopes up.”