Broken Oscar 'sobs himself to sleep'

23 October 2014 - 02:29 By Graeme Hosken
NOWHERE TO RUN: Oscar Pistorius leaves the Pretoria High Court after the final day of sentencing yesterday. The athlete was sent to jail for five years
NOWHERE TO RUN: Oscar Pistorius leaves the Pretoria High Court after the final day of sentencing yesterday. The athlete was sent to jail for five years
Image: Alon Skuy

Oscar Pistorius was heard weeping inconsolably during his first night in prison.

Woken at 5.30am yesterday, the Blade Runner emerged shocked and disorientated from his cell at Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II prison.

The Times has learnt that nurses and guards in the hospital section of the prison spent their shift on Tuesday - his first day and night in prison - monitoring him closely, with officials on stand-by in case of an emergency.

A prison source said: ''You could hear him. Shortly after the door closed you could hear the tears. He was torn up. Broken. The crying went on and on. We think he stopped when he fell asleep. It was really bad."

Another source who observed Pistorius yesterday as he met correctional services officials - along with his and the facility's chaplains - said the new inmate was in shock.

"It gets everyone the first time, but he has the jitters bad [sic]," one said. "He's really tense and stressed. The fact that he can't do what he wants when he wants, and eat what he wants, is hitting him hard. It's clear his imprisonment has not hit home yet.

"He's under observation, with officials monitoring everything he does.'' The source said Pistorius had been introduced briefly to the other nine hospital-wing inmates after first arriving at his cell.

The nine include people in wheelchairs and with prosthetic legs. The introduction continued yesterday and will continue this week, but slowly.

"Some are glad he's with them, but others are not. They don't like that he tried to use his disability to stay out of prison."

He said the biggest shock to Pistorius had been the closing of his cell doors after yesterday's visits. "You could see that it was tough, that he was fighting the tears. We are all men here and have to remain strong. If you are not, you will break."

His cell, fitted with two separate doors - one a grill, the other solid steel - is about 2m by 3m and is equipped with a toilet, a basin and a bed, which has a sponge mattress, a pillow and two blankets.

Golden Miles Bhudu, the president of the South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights, said: "It's no picnic. Once the doors shut that's it. Other than a little grill bar window next to the cell door, through which to talk, there's no other way of communicating at night. When you talk from your cell you have to scream. For people to have heard him crying, it would have been very loud."

James Smallberger, the Correctional Services Department's chief deputy commissioner for incarceration and corrections, said: "There's a lot to get used to. This is why for the next few days there will be visits by officials who will deal with orientation, routine and expectations."

Pistorius's routine will include waking at 5.30am, eating breakfast at 7am, lunch at 12pm and having supper at 4pm - all in his cell.

"As an inmate you don't decide when you do things. It's decided for you. Our programmes dictate when you exercise, eat, shower, sleep, where you go and when. Meals, designed by dieticians and run on a 12-day cycle, are cooked en masse for 7 000 inmates."

Pistorius - who has been sent to prison for five years for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, would this week begin his 21-day risks and needs assessment. His orientation would include warning him of dangers such as gangsterism and contraband, and determining whether he faced other risks.