Steenkamp family friends react to Pistorius release

Steenkamp family lawyer says early release of Oscar Pistorius makes “no difference to their lives”.

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA (OCTOBER 20, 2015) (SABC) – Oscar Pistorius, South Africa’s double-amputee “Blade Runner”, was released on parole late on Monday (October 20), just short of a year into his five-year sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

The disgraced Paralympic gold medallist must serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest but still faces an appeal on Nov. 3 by prosecutors who argue that he should have been convicted of murder, not culpable homicide.

Friends of the Steenkamp family said the news did not affect the family as it would not bring Reeva back.

A lawyer for Steenkamp’s family, who publicly questioned the verdict in August, said the family were indifferent to his release in view of their loss.

“They’re holding up very well, considering the circumstances. It doesn’t matter to them that the fact that he was released a couple of hours earlier, as June (Steenkamp) said to me, it makes no difference to their lives. Reeva is still not coming back, he was going to be released in any event,” said Tania Koen.

One family friend said Pistorius’ early release had reminded him again of the family’s loss.

“Her smile and her kindness and her loving, always ‘I love you my uncle Stan, how are you?’ When I used to do the horses she used to be around, like Barry (Steenkamp) is still around today. I still help Barry today, on the horses. I rode a horse this morning just because – I wanted to ride a horse because of her. I miss her so much, we all miss her,” said family friend Stan McCullen.

Prosecutors are still arguing that the original verdict should be one of murder because Pistorius must have known that the person behind the door could be killed. Their appeal is due to be heard on Nov. 3.

The state will argue that the trial judge misinterpreted parts of the law. A murder conviction would result in a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

A panel of five judges will hear the appeal, which Pistorius is not obliged to attend. They could either reject the prosecution’s appeal, order a retrial, or convict Pistorius of murder themselves, legal experts say.