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‘Broken’ Pistorius in court for murder sentencing

Published on 13/06/2016

Oscar Pistorius is a "broken" man who should be hospitalised with depression, a South African court heard Monday, as the Paralympic athlete faced a return to jail for murdering his girlfriend three years ago.

The double-amputee killed Reeva Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013, saying he mistook her for an intruder when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet.

Wearing a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, the 29-year-old “Blade Runner” attended the first day of his sentencing hearing at the High Court in Pretoria along with members of his family.

“He displayed signs and reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder and depressive disorder,” psychologist Jonathan Scholtz for the defence said, after recent interviews with Pistorius.

“Currently he is not able to testify. His condition is severe.”

Scholtz added that Pistorius “has almost given up, his spirit seems broken” and he should be in hospital as his mental condition had worsened over the last two years.

He said the disgraced athlete was vulnerable emotionally, psychologically and physically.

In March, Pistorius’s lawyers failed in their legal bid to reverse a Supreme Court of Appeal judgement that upgraded his original conviction from culpable homicide — the equivalent of manslaughter — to murder.

The original trial judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to pass a new sentence after hearing arguments from both prosecution and defence.

Pistorius faces a minimum 15-year jail term for murder, but his sentence could be reduced due to time already spent in prison and mitigating factors, including his disability.

Steenkamp’s parents were both in court on Monday, and her father Barry may take the witness stand to ask the court to impose a lengthy punishment.

If he does, it will be the first time one of Steenkamp’s parents has testified in the case.

– Long court battle –

Pistorius was released from jail last October to live under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria after serving one year of his five-year sentence for culpable homicide.

If he is sentenced to more than five years this time around, he will have to serve at least two-thirds of the term before he qualifies for parole.

Analysts estimate that he could be sentenced to between eight and 12 years, but the prosecution is pushing for at least 15.

“When it is not premeditated and when a person is a first offender, (murder) carries a minimum of 15 years… and we have the responsibility to ensure that the provisions of the law are applied,” said the National Prosecution Authority’s spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku.

Since being convicted of murder, Pistorius has been on bail and allowed to leave the house at set times, but not travel further than 20 kilometres (12 miles) without permission.

The case — held in the same courtroom as the original trial — was scheduled to last one week.

Pistorius has always denied killing Steenkamp in a rage and, during his dramatic seven-month trial in 2014, sobbed in the dock as details of his lover’s death were examined in excruciating detail.

Pistorius has shunned the media during years of intense coverage since Steenkamp’s killing, but his family have revealed that he has given his first interview, due to air on British broadcaster ITV later this month.

The year before he killed Steenkamp, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level when he appeared at the London 2012 games.

He has since lost his glittering sports career, lucrative contracts and status as a global role model for the disabled.