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Saturday 23 August 2014

Oscar Pistorius was 'sane' when he shot Reeva Steenkamp

Aislinn Laing

Published 01/07/2014 | 02:30

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Oscar Pistorius was sane and in control of his actions when he fired the shots through a locked lavatory door that killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a team of psychiatrists has found.

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The panel of court-appointed experts spent 30 days evaluating the Paralympic champion at a state mental hospital after his defence lawyers introduced evidence suggesting he was suffering from a Generalised Anxiety Disorder which, coupled with his disability, might have affected his behaviour.

Returning with its findings yesterday after a six-week adjournment in the murder trial, the panel dismissed the suggestion and said Pistorius could be held criminally responsible for his actions on Valentine's Day last year.

"He was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act and acting in accordance with his appreciating of the wrongfulness of his act," said Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, reading their report to the judge.

Fearful

The result is a blow for Pistorius (27) and his legal team, which has sought to paint a picture of a fearful and vulnerable young man who fired in a panic into the lavatory door because he feared an intruder was hiding inside.

Prof Merryl Vorster, a forensic psychiatrist from Wits University in Johannesburg, who was called by the defence, said the amputation of his legs as an infant, his family's heightened fear of crime, his parents' divorce, his mother's death when he was 14 and genetic factors combined to bring about the anxiety disorder.

She said that, coupled with his physical disability, partly explained his extreme reaction in shooting at the lavatory door.

The three psychiatrists and one psychologist found no evidence of the disorder. However, the psychologist conceded that Pistorius suffered from a level of anxiety before the crime, and the psychiatrists found that he was left with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression afterwards.

Yesterday, the defence called the orthopaedic surgeon who amputated the athlete's legs when he was 11 months old.

Dr Gerald Versfeld, who has remained close to Pistorius, elaborated on the pain the athlete suffered while standing on his stumps as he was on the night of the shooting.

He said Pistorius fell over frequently when trying to walk without his prostheses and his ability to balance without using hands was "severely impaired".

Both sides agree that Pistorius was on his stumps when he fired into the lavatory but the prosecution says he was still on his stumps when he used a cricket bat to break down the door and reach Ms Steenkamp inside.

The trial also heard from an acoustics expert called by the defence who said that the claim by a key state witness living 177 metres away that she heard a woman's "blood curdling screams" followed by shots the night Ms Steenkamp died was "very unlikely".

The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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