Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius started a five-year jail term yesterday for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, following a trial that has gripped South Africans and millions around the world. As Judge Thokozile Masipa gave her decision on the 27-year-old's sentence for culpable homicide, Pistorius, whose downfall has been likened to that of American football star O.J. Simpson, stood resolutely in the dock. His only reaction was to wipe his eyes before two police officers led him to the holding cells beneath the High Court in the heart of the South African capital. Ninety minutes later, an armoured police vehicle carrying Pistorius - still dressed in dark suit, white shirt and black tie - left the building through a throng of reporters for Pretoria Central Prison. Watch: Oscar Pistorius sentenced to up to 5 years in prison Once the execution site for opponents of South Africa's former white-minority government, the jail is now home to the country's most hardened criminals, among them apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock, also known as "Prime Evil". Prison officials said Pistorius would be housed in a separate and secure hospital wing of the massive complex. Masipa stressed the difficulty of arriving at a sentence that was "fair and just to society and to the accused". She rebuffed suggestions that Pistorius - a wealthy and influential white man - might be able to secure preferential justice despite the "equality before law" guarantee enshrined in the post-apartheid 1996 constitution. "It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were created that there is one law for the poor … and one for the rich," she said. Steenkamp, a 29-year-old law graduate and model, died almost instantly on Valentine's Day last year after Pistorius shot her through a locked toilet door in his luxury Pretoria home. Prosecutors pushed for a murder conviction, but the athlete maintained he fired in the mistaken belief an intruder was hiding behind the door, a defence that struck home in a country with one of the world's highest rates of violent crime. The ruling African National Congress' Women's League, which is at the forefront of political efforts to tackle violence against South African women, called for an appeal by the state against the September 12 culpable homicide conviction. But Steenkamp's family said they were satisfied with the sentence. "Justice was served," family lawyer Dup De Bruyn said outside court, adding that the judge had given "the right sentence". With no minimum sentence for culpable homicide - South Africa's equivalent of manslaughter - Pistorius could have been punished with a few years of house arrest combined with community service. The state prosecuting authority, which has two weeks to decide whether to launch an appeal against the verdict, said Pistorius was likely to serve at least a third of his sentence in prison. Pistorius was separately convicted for firing a handgun in a Johannesburg restaurant and given a three-year suspended sentence. Even if freed early, he would not be able to resume his athletics career until his full term was served, the International Paralympic Committee said, ruling out any appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.