, PRETORIA, South Africa, Oct 21 – Star athlete Oscar Pistorius began serving a five-year sentence behind the towering walls of a grim South African prison on Tuesday after a sensational trial for killing his girlfriend.
The “Blade Runner” is just one of more than 7,000 inmates of the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria, where he was taken after being sentenced for shooting dead model Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered Pistorius to serve a maximum five years in prison for culpable homicide after a seven-month trial watched live by millions around the world.
“It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were to be created that there was one law for the poor and disadvantaged and another for the rich and famous,” said Masipa, South Africa’s second black woman judge.
Lawyers said however that Pistorius will probably not serve the full term for the offence of culpable homicide, equivalent to manslaughter, and perhaps as little as 10 months before being moved to house arrest.
The case was a stunning fall from grace for the 27-year-old who made history by becoming the first double amputee Paralympian to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, inspiring millions.
But during his trial, the prosecution painted a darker picture of the sports star, presenting a dangerously volatile young man with a penchant for guns, beautiful women and fast cars.
Life in prison will be very different, with stringent regulations governing inmates’ visiting hours and possessions allowed inside, including food.
Sport clothes are only allowed following approval by authorities, computers are prohibited, and only one photo album can be kept.
Formerly known as Pretoria Central Prison, the facility was notorious for its brutality towards political prisoners held under the racist apartheid regime which collapsed 20 years ago.
Pistorius, who had wept and vomited at times during his trial, stood stock-still as he was sentenced, veins bulging in his forehead and his jaw muscles clenched.
He was also sentenced to three years, suspended for five years, for accidentally firing a pistol under a table at a restaurant in Johannesburg in January 2013.
Pistorius had testified that he shot Steenkamp, 29, four times through a locked bathroom door at his upmarket Pretoria home after he mistakenly believed she was an intruder.
Prosecutors had argued that he murdered her in a fit of rage after an argument.