Family anger as Pistorius to be released in August

Pheladi Sethusa

Johannesburg (AFP) - Oscar Pistorius, the South African amputee sprinter who shot dead his girlfriend, is set to be freed on parole in August after serving just 10 months in jail, officials said Monday, sparking anger from her family.

Pistorius, who became a global hero after competing in both the Paralympics and Olympics, claimed he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked bathroom door on Valentine's Day in 2013.

The 28-year-old athlete was found guilty last year of culpable homicide -- a charge equivalent to manslaughter -- and sentenced to five years in prison.

"The Correctional Supervision and Parole Board... approved the placement of Oscar Pistorius under correctional supervision with effect from 21 August," a government statement said.

But Steenkamp's family voiced dismay at the announcement.

"Incarceration of 10 months for taking a life is simply not enough," Reeva's parents June and Barry Steenkamp said in a statement released online.

"We fear that this will not send out the proper message and serve as the deterrent it should."

The statement added that the family had "forgiven" Pistorius and did "not seek to avenge" the death of their daughter, 29, a successful model and television presenter.

Zach Modise, commissioner of the correctional services, told AFP that Pistorius would likely be kept under house arrest with one hour of free time each day before the restrictions were gradually eased.

- Oscar's dark side -

Born without fibulas -- calf bones -- Pistorius had his legs amputated below the knee at 11 months of age and was fitted with prosthetics which allowed him to play sports.

He took numerous sprinting titles in the Paralympics, and made history in 2012 when he became the first double-amputee to compete at both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

But the shooting abruptly shattered his heroic image and ended his sparkling career as sponsors dumped him and he was forced to sell his homes due to mounting legal bills.

The case also exposed his darker side as volatile man with a penchant for guns, beautiful women and fast cars.

Weeks before he shot Steenkamp, he discharged a gun by accident at a Johannesburg restaurant.

In the dock, he sobbed, shook and vomited in the dock as details of his lover's death were examined in excruciating detail as the world followed every twist and turn of the trial.

State prosecutors are appealing against his conviction for culpable homicide, saying he should have been found guilty of murder.

On Monday, the appeal hearing was set for November -- three months after Pistorius is due to be freed on parole.

"A specific date has not been set yet, but we can confirm that the appeal will happen in November this year," a Supreme Court official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

State prosecutors were granted permission to appeal against the verdict, arguing that Judge Thokozile Masipa misinterpreted the law when she ruled Pistorius did not intentionally kill Steenkamp.

The state argued he deliberately killed the 29-year-old law graduate and reality television star after an argument.

Pistorius's legal team unsuccessfully tried to halt the appeal, saying the conviction was based on facts presented during the trial and therefore could not be challenged.

If an appeals court finds him guilty of murder, the athlete -- known as the "Blade Runner" for his prosthetic legs he wears on the track -- could face at least 15 years in jail.

Due to his physical disability, Pistorius has been held in the hospital ward of a Pretoria prison, shielding him from the often brutal overcrowded cells that are known for gang violence.