Oscar Pistorius Trial: Prosecution considers referring Paralympian for 'mental evaluation'

Athlete could be referred for further psychiatric observation

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial took a dramatic turn today after the prosecution argued the athlete should be sent for further "mental observation" after a defence expert witness claimed he suffers from an "anxiety disorder".

In an unexpected twist, state prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court he would consider filing an application for the athlete to be referred for 30 days of psychiatric evaluation at a state mental hospital in South Africa.

His request followed the testimony of Dr Merryll Vorster, a witness for the defence, who argued the athlete's actions the night he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp should be "seen in the context of his anxiety", which made him "hyper vigilant" and fearful for his own safety.

Judge Thokozile Masipa has not yet ruled on the request. The athlete's defence will oppose the application. If approved, Pistorius could spend up to 30 days in observation at a mental health institution.

"Suggesting Pistorius has a mental disorder at this stage of the trial is a rather strange, questionable move, " said William Booth, a Cape Town-based criminal lawyer. "Judge Masipa has been very objective throughout and she will probably accept Nel's request."

VIDEO: Prosecution says Pistorius had a difficult childhood

Taking the stand, Dr Vorster said Pistorius's anxiety combined with his physical disability may have caused him to act differently from an able-bodied person without generalised anxiety disorder the night of the shooting.

In cross examination, Mr Nel asked the psychiatrist if someone suffering from an anxiety disorder similar to the kind that she had diagnosed in Pistorius, and had access to guns at home, would be a danger to society.

Dr Vorster conceded the person would be a danger.

 

Earlier in her evidence, Dr Vorster told the court his double leg amputation as a baby and his complicated relationship with his parents turned him into a "distrusting and guarded" person who often kept his feelings to himself and felt "alone and isolated" despite his fame and status as South Africa's national hero.

She said Pistorius was "reared to view the world as threatening" from an early age based on interviews with the athlete, family members and friends and this made him "perceive his surroundings as being threatening when perhaps they're not". If exposed to a threatening situation, Pistorius is more likely to "fight" than "flight".

"Are you saying Mr Pistorius had diminished responsibility?," Nel asked.

Dr Vorster argued Pistorius understands the difference between right and wrong, but his "reaction to situations would be different" to those of an able-bodied person without generalised anxiety disorder. She also told the court the athlete feels guilty and is suffering from depression as a result of the shooting.

READ MORE: PISTORIUS HAS 'ANXIETY DISORDER'

Pistorius' defence team claims his feelings of "vulnerability" and fear of crime contributed to him shooting his girlfriend by mistake last year fearing she was an intruder hiding in a toilet cubicle at his Pretoria home in the Silver Woods gated estate.

The state argues the athlete shot and killed his girlfriend deliberately, knowing full well she was behind the toilet door, following a domestic dispute in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013.

South Africa does not have trial by jury, meaning Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide Pistorius' fate with the help of two assessors.

The murder trial continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'