Africa

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Pistorius has lived with anxiety disorder all his life, court told

Aislinn Laing

Published 21/05/2014|02:30

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Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria. AP

Oscar Pistorius, the paralympian accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been instructed to present himself at a state mental hospital on Monday for a month's evaluation by a team of four psychiatrists.

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The 27-year-old athlete was ordered to go to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital west of Pretoria, one of South Africa's biggest and oldest psychiatric institutions, every weekday starting at 9am on May 26 for up to 30 days' assessment of his mental state.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who is hearing the high-profile trial about the fatal shooting of Steenkamp (29) at the sprinter's Pretoria home on St Valentine's Day last year, made the order after hearing evidence from a psychiatrist that Pistorius suffers from a Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Dr Merryll Vorster, who was called by the defence team, said Pistorius had lived with the condition from a very young age. She said that while it might not have directly caused what happened, he might have reacted differently to that of an "able-bodied person" if the disorder were coupled with his disability as a double-amputee.

Following the evidence and at the request of prosecutors, Judge Masipa sensationally halted the already three-month-long trial to give instructions for him to be independently assessed by a panel of three psychiatrists and one psychologist.

Delivering her official order, she gave instructions for the panel to "enquire into whether the accused by reason of mental illness or mental defect was at the time of the commission of the offence criminally responsible for the offences charged".

Capable

She also instructed them to determine "whether he was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act, or of acting in accordance with an appreciation of the wrongfulness of his act".

The panel will question the athlete about his family background, upbringing and medical history as well as the events of the night he shot Steenkamp through a locked lavatory door at his home.

He will be expected to undergo a range of psychological tests to establish his personality type, brain function and whether he is "malingering" in any way, and his appearance, attitude, mood and behaviour will be observed throughout

Judge Masipa said Pistorius, who has been on bail since last February, should be evaluated at the dilapidated facility as an outpatient to ensure he was "not punished twice".

Last week, those leading the police investigation team said he would be expected to be at the hospital from as early as 5am until late at night before returning to his uncle's home in Pretoria, where he has been living since the shooting.

Pistorius, who last week described the state's suggestion that he undergo independent psychiatric evaluation as a "joke", declined to comment as he left court yesterday.

He claims he killed Steenkamp accidentally believing she was an intruder. The prosecution say he killed her deliberately.

The case resumes on June 30. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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