South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has had an anxiety disorder since childhood and was “anxious” about violent crime, a psychiatrist has told his murder trial.
His actions when he shot his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year “should be seen in context of his anxiety”, Dr Merryll Vorster said.
The statement prompted the prosecution team at his murder trial to say the double-amputee Olympian should be placed under psychiatric observation.
Dr Vorster, a psychiatrist called by the sportsman’s defence team, testified that a series of events in Pistorius’ turbulent life, including the amputation of his lower legs as a baby, his parents’ divorce, his late mother’s habit of sleeping with a gun under her pillow and his own fear of violent crime contributed to his “increasing stress”.
“Overall, Mr Pistorius appears to be a mistrustful and guarded person,” she testified. She said the Olympian had “many features of anxiety” and this anxiety combined with his physical disability may have caused him to act differently from other people when he shot four times through a toilet door in his home, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Dr Vorster outlined the athlete’s apparently unhappy childhood and a life story in contrast to the smiling, triumphant disabled runner who made history at the London Olympics in 2012.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked the psychiatrist if someone who was suffering from such an anxiety disorder, and had access to guns, would be a danger to society.
Dr Vorster said the person would, indeed, be a danger.
Pistorius, 27, claims he mistook his girlfriend for a dangerous intruder when he shot her with his licensed 9mm pistol in the pre-dawn hours.
Prosecutors say he killed the 29-year-old model after an argument and shot in anger and not fear.
Pistorius’ chief lawyer Barry Roux said at the start of defence-led testimony that the double amputee’s vulnerability and disability was at the centre of his case of a mistaken killing.
Mr Nel yesterday questioned if Pistorius was merely trying one of a number of defences.
“There must be some reason why Mr Roux decided to call this witness. It might be the third defence that we have,” Mr Nel said.
Pistorius, the first amputee to run at the Olympics, has already testified that he fired his gun accidentally at the toilet door. That appeared to contradict his initial statement that he shot in self-defence because he believed his life was in danger.
Dr Vorster’s testimony came at the start of the eighth week of the trial. The prosecution’s cross-examination of the psychiatrist is set to continue after Mr Nel asked for more time to look at the psychitraist’s report.
Earlier yesterday, ballistics expert Tom Wolmarans told the trial his analysis of the crime scene differed from the reconstruction of the shooting by police investigators.
The study of the sequence and trajectory of bullets that struck Ms Steenkamp through a closed toilet door is at the centre of testimony over how rapidly Pistorius fired the fatal pistol shots.
It also relates to the defence’s contention that police investigators made mistakes.
Pistorius denies all charges against him.
The trial continues.