Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete's personal life was a 'paradox' of successful career in public eye

Professor Wayne Derman described "two different Oscars" whose fame and achievements served to mask his disability

Oscar Pistorius' private life was a "paradox" of his public persona in South Africa, where he was venerated as a national hero for his successful career in athletics, his murder trial heard on Thursday.

Returning to the witness stand, Wayne Derman, a professor of sport and exercise medicine, spoke of two "different Oscars": the successful athlete versus a man who endured tremendous difficulties in his everyday life as a result of his disability.

"You've got a paradox of an individual who is supremely able, and you've got an individual who is significantly disabled," he told Pretoria's High Court.

He also added that Pistorius was particularly scared of "being trapped" and "fleeing" was not an option for him since he struggles to maintain his balance and cannot move rapidly on his stumps.

Pistorius claims he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day last year in a case of mistaken identity thinking she was an intruder hiding in his bathroom. The prosecution argues he deliberately opened fire at her following a heated argument.

Under cross-examination, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused him of being biased and suggested that the professor, who has worked with Pistorius for more than 10 years, was giving the court “character evidence” rather than “expert evidence”.

"But you’re not allowed to do that. You have to always act in the best interests of your patient. You cannot give evidence against your patient," Mr Nel added.

 

Throughout the trial, the prosecution has painted a picture of a gun-loving, possessive and jealous boyfriend who often snapped at Ms Steenkamp. In stark contrast, his defence argues the athlete's life has been marked by tragedy, after undergoing a double leg amputation as a baby and losing his mother at a young age.

Yesterday, his murder trial heard Pistorius is suffering from post-traumatic distress disorder after shooting his girlfriend dead and is at risk of committing suicide if he does not continue his medical treatment.

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Oscar Pistorius arrives at the High Court in Pretoria

However, a panel of experts, including three psychiatrists and one psychologist,  came to the conclusion that he did not suffer from a mental health disorder the night of the shooting and was capable of understanding the wrongfulness of his actions.

They had been tasked to determine whether his mental health played a part in the shooting after a defence expert witness argued he suffers from a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

If convicted of murder, which the athlete denies, Pistorius faces a mandatory life sentence which usually carries a minimum of 25 years in jail, though mitigation could reduce it in this case.

If found guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide, he could face 15 years or a non-custodial sentence.

The trial continues.