Pistorius at risk of suicide, murder trial told

Oscar Pistorius appears relaxed as he takes notes at his trial yesterday. Picture: ReutersOscar Pistorius appears relaxed as he takes notes at his trial yesterday. Picture: Reuters
Oscar Pistorius appears relaxed as he takes notes at his trial yesterday. Picture: Reuters
Oscar Pistorius is severely traumatised after killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and will become an increasing suicide risk unless he continues to get 
mental health care, the judge at his murder trial in South Africa has heard.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux read excerpts from a psychologist’s report that said the double-amputee runner was suffering depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and “his condition is likely to worsen” if professional treatment were halted.

The report was compiled during a 30-day observation period at a state psychiatric hospital.

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A report was also compiled by three psychiatrists. The experts concluded Pistorius was not mentally ill when he shot Ms Steenkamp through a closed toilet door in the early hours of 14 February, 2013. The court-ordered evaluation came after a psychiatrist for the defence said Pistorius was suffering from an anxiety disorder that may have influenced his actions on the night he killed Ms Steenkamp.

At times during his trial Pistorius has wailed and retched in apparent distress, particularly during graphic testimony about the shooting and also when on the witness stand.

At other times, he has been calm and taken notes.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel has suggested Pistorius feigned distress to dodge a tough cross-examination; the athlete’s camp has denied his emotional displays were fake.

Pistorius claims he shot Ms Steenkamp by mistake, fearing there was a dangerous intruder in his home. The prosecution alleges he murdered her after a Valentine’s Day argument.

Pistorius, who is free on bail, faces 25 years to life in prison if found guilty of premeditated murder, but he could also be sentenced to jail if convicted of murder without premeditation, or negligent killing. He also faces gun-related charges.

The report by the psychologist found Pistorius did not have a history of “abnormal aggression or explosive violence”, has a past of insecure and vulnerable feelings and does not display narcissistic tendencies associated with abusive relationships, 
according to Mr Roux.

The prosecution, however, said the Olympic and Paralympic athlete was reckless and egotistical, given to jealousy, gun-play and driving at high speed.

Also yesterday, a medical expert who has treated Pistorius said the athlete has a hand tremor as well as a sleep disorder that required medication.

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Wayne Derman, a professor of sport and exercise medicine at the University of Cape Town, said he found Pistorius to be “hyper-vigilant” and was restless, often looking around quickly and scanning for possible threats.

“He is an anxious individual,” said Mr Derman, a defence witness. Pistorius’ lawyers are arguing his fear of crime led him to fire through a closed toilet door and that his disability contributed to his sense of vulnerability.

The trial continues.

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