Oscar Pistorius has been released from prison and will serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest at his uncle’s house, less than one year into a five-year sentence for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius’s family had been expecting his release on Tuesday morning, but late on Monday night his lawyer said the former Paralympian was already at his uncle’s house.
“It will be very good. He should have been released on August 21,” his lawyer Brian Webber said shortly before his release.
Pistorius family spokesperson Anneliese Burgess said he was at his uncle Arnold’s house in Pretoria, adding that the family was “hunkered down”. The family will issue a statement on Tuesday.
Manelisi Wolela, a spokesperson for the department of correctional services, confirmed that Pistorius had been released at 7.30pm on Monday.
He is expected to remain under correctional supervision, or house arrest, until 2019, pending the outcome of an appeal by prosecutors that could yet see him returned to jail.
The state has challenged Judge Thokozile Masipa’s original verdict of culpable homicide, and the supreme court of appeals (SCA) will hear that appeal on 3 November. Prosecutors argue that Pistorius should have been convicted of murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years.
The former athlete was convicted last year of culpable homicide after he shot dead Steenkamp at his house in Pretoria. Pistorius maintained that he had mistaken her for an intruder, and the court accepted his argument that he had not intended to kill her.
Late on Monday night, Pistorius was taken from his cell to the residence of his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, in Waterkloof, an upmarket Pretoria suburb. The house is a three-storey converted Dutch Reformed church on a luxury estate, and has a swimming pool.
The decision to move him from the prison a day early – to avoid a media circus on Tuesday morning – was made by the management of Kgosi Mampuru II prison, the department of correctional services said in a statement. “Oscar Pistorius was placed under correctional supervision tonight. The handling of the actual placement is an operational matter of the local management, and how they handle it is their prerogative that is carried out in the best interest of all parties concerned, the victims, the offender and the department of correctional services.”
Correctional services minister Michael Masutha had told local broadcaster eNCA that the terms of Pistorius’s release included a requirement to meet with Steenkamp’s parents, if and when they agree to such a meeting. “It is especially the person who is the source of your pain, who making peace with is likely to bring the greatest healing,” said Masutha. Pistorius will also have to undertake community service and attend regular psychotherapy sessions.
According to eNCA journalist Karyn Maughan, lawyers for the Steenkamp family indicated that they were willing to meet with Pistorius, but only “at the right time” and away from the public eye.
In June, a parole board told Pistorius he would be released on 20 August, only for this decision to be suspended by the government following public outcry. A judicial review panel subsequently overturned it on a technicality. Pistorius was granted a second parole hearing last week, which set the 20 October release date.
Pistorius’s early release from prison has been criticised by women’s groups inSouth Africa, including the ANC Women’s League, who said they were “disappointed” by the decision. “We pin our hopes on the SCA to repeal the judgment and that Oscar must serve a sentence that would bring him back a changed man and an advocate for women’s rights in future,” it said in a statement.