Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp 11 years ago. Now he has been released from prison.

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence that may be distressing to some readers.

Oscar Pistorius is a free man.

The Paralympian has been released on parole from his South African jail, almost 11 years after murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius was safe "at home" on Friday morning, according to officials, with the convicted murderer only serving half of his 13-year sentence.

This divisive news follows a decade of controversy around the tragedy.

On the eve of Valentine's Day, 2013, Reeva Steenkamp went to bed with her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius.

They were South Africa's golden couple; Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, and Pistorius known as the Blade Runner because of his carbon-fibre prosthetics. His personal story of overcoming a double amputation to compete in the Olympics against able-bodied runners had inspired the world.

It would be Steenkamp's last night alive.

She spent her final moments cowering in fear, locked in Pistorius' bathroom, before being shot multiple times in the head and body, by the man she loved; the man the world loved.

When police arrived at the scene, they found a bloodied but alive Steenkamp at the bottom of the staircase, covered in towels. Pistorius had apparently carried her down the stairs from the bathroom, after instructing the manager of his gated community to call an ambulance. They found the Blade Runner in the garage, head in hands. His clothes and body were covered in blood, but his hands were clean.


Watch: June and Barry Steenkamp speak about their daughter Reeva. Post continues below.

He reportedly told the attending officer he'd washed his hands because they were "covered in blood".

But the then 25-year-old denied intentionally murdering his girlfriend. Instead Pistorius claimed he thought she was a burglar. He said he'd heard a noise and flew into protection mode - South Africa is, after all, a country with extremely high crime rates. Seeing the closed toilet door, he claimed he thought the intruder must be inside, and opened fire.

The door, which was riddled with bullet holes, had been bashed open by a cricket bat. Pistorius said he broke into the toilet after discovering Steenkamp wasn't in bed. But the evidence didn't support the story, and Pistorius was charged with murder.

The trial that captured the nation.

Streamed live via the internet, the trial captured the nation and the world. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Pistorius, dedicated fans couldn’t believe their beloved Blade Runner could be guilty of murder.

Pistorius was born without fibula bones, resulting in amputation as a baby. His mother has been credited for being the inspiration behind his success, insisting that his disability didn't define him. His determination and incredible athletic success made him a global household name.


But there was a dark side. He had an aggressive temper by many accounts, and a quiet reputation for controlling women. 

Steenkamp, on the other hand, was known for her kind nature. Graduating top of her class at university where she studied law, Steenkamp and her mother were passionate advocates for the elimination of violence against women - a sad irony.

South Africa's golden couple. Image Getty.

Following the fascinating and theatrical trial, Pistorius was found guilty of murder. 


He was initially sentenced to six years in prison, but the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled he should serve the country's minimum murder sentence of 15 years. Having already served some time, Pistorius was set to spend another 13 years and five months in prison.

In South Africa, prisoners are automatically eligible for parole after serving half their sentence, and Pistorius appealed for an early release in March. His appeal bid was strongly opposed by Steenkamp’s parents, June and Barry, who have made no secret of their rage towards the man who murdered their daughter.

The appeal was rejected on the basis Pistorius hadn't completed the minimum detention period, however it was subsequently ruled that the decision was made in error, leaving Pistorius able to bid for his freedom once again. 

On November 24, South African time, a parole board determined whether Pistorius is "suitable or not for social integration". He was granted parole and will be released from prison on January 5.

While June Steenkamp has previously said Pistorius "should remain behind bars", she has not gone against his emergency release plea, and said she had forgiven him, which is believed to have contributed to the decision to release him. Some commentators have suggested this decision may have been prompted by the death of her husband, Barry, in September.

Despite forgiving Pistorius, she said, via a statement to the hearing, that she didn't believe his defence that he thought the person in the toilet was an intruder. 

"My dearest child screamed for her life – loud enough for the neighbours to hear her," the statement read. "I do not know what gave rise to his choice to shoot through a closed door four times … when I believe, he knew it was Reeva."


Reeva Steenkamp was passionate about ending violence against women. Image: Getty.

She said she didn't believe he had been rehabilitated in prison. 

"Rehabilitation requires someone to engage honestly with the full truth of his crime and the consequences thereof. Nobody can claim to have remorse if they are not able to engage fully with the truth," she wrote.


"If someone does not show remorse, they cannot be considered to be rehabilitated. If they are not rehabilitated, their risk of recidivism is high," she said, adding any woman who came into contact with Pistorius could be in danger.

She said she believed her husband died from a broken heart after the grief of losing his daughter.

The court described Pistorius as a "first time offender with a positive support system".

He will be required to remain in Waterkloof in the city of Pretoria with his family during his parole. He will also be given anger management therapy and will not be permitted to consume alcohol. 

"Parole does not mean the end of the sentence. It is still part of the sentence. It only means the inmate will complete the sentence outside a correctional facility," said South Africa’s Department of Corrections spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said.

This post was originally published in November 2023 and has since been updated with new information.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature Image: Getty