Pistorius a ‘suicide risk’, court told
Paralympian star sprinter Oscar Pistorius is suffering from post-traumatic stress after killing his girlfriend and is a suicide risk, a South African court heard on Wednesday.
The diagnosis was contained in a psychological report read to the court by lawyer Barry Roux, who is defending Pistorius on charges that he deliberately shot and killed model Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
“Mr Pistorius has been severely traumatised by the events that took place,” Roux quoted the report as saying.
“He currently suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive disorder. He is also mourning the loss of Ms Steenkamp.”
Pistorius, 27, had received treatment for his condition and this should continue, the report said.
“Should he not receive proper clinical care, his condition is likely to worsen and increase the risks for suicide.”
The report was the result of 30 days of court-ordered psychiatric and psychological observation of the double-amputee athlete.
Judge Masipa ruled that only the conclusions of the report revealed in court can be published after the defence said it contained “personal details” about the Pistorius family that should be kept private.
Her order came as a surprise since the contents of the report had been broadcast by at least one major news network and reported on Twitter.
Both sides had cherry-picked from the report to back up their cases.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel read excerpts which said Pistorius had not suffered any mental illness at the time he shot Steenkamp and could be held “criminally responsible” for his actions.
Roux countered with a section dealing with the prosecution’s contention that Pistorius had a volatile temper.
“No evidence could be found to indicate that Mr Pistorius has a history of abnormal aggression or explosive violence,” Roux read.
“He does not display the personality characteristics of narcissism and of psychopathy that are mostly associated with men in abusive relationships and have been linked to rage-type murders in intimate relationships.”
The defence has said it has no more witnesses to call after Wayne Derman, chief medical officer of the South African Paralympic Team at the London Olympic Games in 2012, who testified on Pistorius’s physical vulnerability.
In harrowing testimony, Derman said “adults with disabilities are at higher risk of violent attacks against them than adults without a disability,” appearing to support the Pistorius defence claim that the runner shot Steenkamp because he has a heightened fear of crime.
Derman said that in his six years working with Pistorius he knew him as “hyper-vigilant,” with an “exaggerated startle” response.
At events marked by fireworks Pistorius exhibited an “excessive response,” said Derman, “which involves him covering his ears and cowering away until the noise ends.”
– ‘Nothing to gain’ –
Earlier, in a pummelling cross-examination, Nel questioned Pistorius’s manager about the athlete’s angry outbursts and turbulent love life, zeroing in on apparent inconsistencies in key parts of his account.
Nel dismissed Peet Van Zyl’s claim that he did not know of Pistorius’s aggressive behaviour at past athletic events and personal details about his previous girlfriends.
But van Zyl denied trying to protect Pistorius.
“I do not have any future contracts or anything of that sort. Contracts have been terminated,” he said.
“I don’t stand to gain anything by being biased toward Mr Pistorius in my testimony,” he said.
Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner”, has been charged with murdering Steenkamp by shooting her four times through a locked toilet door after a row.
The defence claims Pistorius shot the 29-year-old model and law graduate after mistaking her for an intruder.
He faces 25 years in South Africa’s tough jails and an abrupt end to his glittering sporting career if convicted.