Monday, 17 August 2015

#Sports: Oscar Pistorius Will Live In Luxury When He Is Released This Week


Athlete nicknamed "Blade Runner" eligible for parole after 10 months of five-year sentence but will find himself a pariah to much of South Africa



In a leafy suburb outside South Africa’s capital Pretoria is a three-storey mansion, boasting sweeping verandas, landscaped grounds and a swimming pool. This is the luxury home of Oscar Pistorius’s uncle, where the Paralympic gold medallist will return this week after serving just 10 months of the five-year prison sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The double-amputee, known as the “Blade Runner” because of the carbon-fibre prosthetics he used on the track, will be released from Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II Prison on August 21. On release, the 28-year-old will live at his uncle’s house in Waterkloof. It is known as an “old money” neighbourhood, housing the city’s elite as well as several diplomatic residences, where properties can fetch up to 20m Rand (£1 million).
Pistorius’s time in jail has done little to elicit sympathy in a country where millions live in extreme poverty.

“He won’t exactly suffer much will he?” said John, a gardener in Waterkloof, gesturing with a cigarette towards the spacious home.
During the trial last year, the prosecution failed to convince the judge that Pistorius deliberately killed 29-year-old Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, when he shot four rounds through a locked lavatory door. The court accepted the athlete’s justification that he mistook her for a burglar.

The disgraced former track star was instead convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, and sentenced to five years in prison. He is eligible for early release under a law that allows for an offender to be considered for house arrest after serving one sixth of their sentence.
Under the terms of his release, he will be banned from alcohol or handling guns, and subject to unnanounced blood tests.

His parole is also expected to include an element of rehabilitation and community service. Pistorius has said he wanted to work with children - possibly at his uncle's school in Mozambique - but he is unlikely to be allowed to leave South Africa.
Brian Webber, his solicitor, said the details of his release were still being finalised.

Whatever happens, he will have to get used to being a pariah to a significant sector of society, according to John Carlin, author of Chase Your Shadows, a book chronicling the trial.

“He will be anxious to know how the media will respond to his release and how ordinary people will relate to him, whether there will be a big sense of outrage at the brevity of his time in prison given that he did kill a person,” he said.

During his testimony, he broke down in tears and loud sobs showing what seemed to be, some remorse. But during the trial, the athlete’s personality was laid bare as the prosecution depicted him as a controlling, gun-toting hothead. Judge Thokozile Masipa described him as a “very poor witness” during the cross-examination when he contradicted himself.

“People were divided after he testified but under cross-examination, when people saw he was a liar, he lost favour with the public,” said Laurie James-Pieters, a criminologist. “Where do you put him where he is not exposed to angry people? He is safer in prison.”
He is currently separated from the general prison population for his own safety. Concern about his mental health motivated prison authorities to keep the Paralympian under suicide watch.

Several sources say that the athlete has lost weight, due to the prison diet and a lack of intensive exercise. According to local media reports, he struck up friendship with Radovan Krejcir – a Czech fugitive accused of kidnapping, attempted murder and drug dealing.

He is due to be releaesed two days after his victim’s birthday, adding to the Steempkamps' pain. Her parents, June and Barry, wrote to the parole board in June saying that 10 months in prison for taking a life was “simply not enough”.

Mike Steenkamp, Reeva’s uncle, said the family were coping with the imminent release as best they could. “We will see how things are in a week, we just have to take it as it comes," he said.

Pistorius still faces the possibility of a tougher sentence. Prosecutors in November will attempt to persuade the Supreme Court of Appeal that he should have been found guilty of murder, a conviction that carries a minimum of 15 years in prison. The prosecution will attempt to argue that the judge erred in acquitting him of the more serious charge because Pistorius should have known that firing at Steenkamp four times through a locked door would have resulted in her death.
Whatever happens, his career as a Paralympic sprinter is all but over.

Although the South African Olympic Committee said there was no bar on athletes with a criminal record - allowing Pistorius to compete nationally - the International Paralympic Committee ruled he will not be allowed to return to the track until 2019, excluding him from the Rio Games in 2016. The 28-year-old South African will be 33 by the time of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

“He might run again but he will never find within himself either the personal drive or the physical condition required to make it anywhere near the peak he achieved in London in 2012," said Mr Carlin. "Besides, if he were to try competing in serious race meetings, crowds would boo him, events would be boycotted that he participated in."

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