Oscar Pistorius has met the father of his late partner Reeva Steenkamp as the South African athlete seeks parole nine years after killing her.
The Paralympic gold medalist was jailed after shooting at the 29-year-old model four times through a locked bathroom door at his home in Pretoria, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013.
He insisted that he had believed her to be an intruder, and was initially found guilty of culpable homicide – a charge similar to manslaughter. But in 2015 the ruling was upgraded to murder by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal, and his prison sentence was later increased to 13 years and five months.
Now, as part of the process for seeking parole in South Africa – known as victim-offender dialogue – Reeva’s father Barry Steenkamp is said to have met Pistorius.
The pair met on 22 June, according to a lawyer for the Steenkamp family, Tania Koen.
“The dialogue is a private and confidential matter, hence we ask that our clients’ privacy be respected,” Ms Koen told the Associated Press.
The process is part of South Africa’s restorative justice system and is aimed at giving the victims of crimes or their relatives a chance to meet perpetrators in a controlled environment before they can be eligible for parole, helping them to achieve closure.
A parole hearing for Pistorius was scheduled for last year but was canceled because he hadn’t yet met Steenkamp’s parents.
He was moved from the Atteridgeville correctional facility in Pretoria to a facility in the southern city of Gqeberha, the Steenkamps’ home town, ahead of the meeting. He has now been returned to the low-security prison in the capital, South Africa’s department of correctional services said.
Confirming that the meeting had taken place, a department spokesperson stressed that Pistorius would continue to serve his sentence, because participating in the process did not equate to an end of his sentence or a parole placement.
“There is a need to emphasize that inmates are required to partake in the VOD as part of their rehabilitation path wherein they are able to acknowledge the harm they have caused to their victims and the society at large,” he told the TimesLIVE newspaper.
In a Facebook post, the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation extended “love and support to Barry and June, who participated in the process in preparing them for a meeting with Oscar Pistorius”. It added: “Barry ultimately met with Oscar on 22 June 2022 for the victim offender dialogue.
“A word of sincere gratitude to the Department of Correctional Services, especially the staff at St Albans Prison, for facilitating the process in a sensitive and professional manner.”
During his lengthy televised trial in 2014, Pistorius used his testimony to apologize to Steenkamp’s family, telling the court: “There hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family.”
Additional reporting by AP