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
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?