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Friday 19 September 2014

There are really two Oscars, psychologist tells trial

Aislinn Laing

Published 04/07/2014 | 02:30

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Oscar Pistorius checks his phone in the Pretoria High Court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo credit: Herman Verwe/Foto24/Gallo Images - Pool/Getty Images
Oscar Pistorius checks his phone in the Pretoria High Court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo credit: Herman Verwe/Foto24/Gallo Images - Pool/Getty Images

A psychologist who spent a month evaluating Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, right, found that there were "two Oscars": an "international superstar" who was tall and confident – and a "vulnerable and fearful disabled person" who was scared to be alone at night and kept guns to feel safe.

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Professor Jonathan Scholtz said while the first Oscar felt more "in control", the other felt "defenceless".

He said the "split" in his personality was consolidated at primary school where he was encouraged to behave like "any other boy" and he learned that being sporty and physical could compensate for his vulnerability as a double-amputee.

The claims by Prof Scholtz were contained in a report read to the court yesterday by Pistorius' defence barrister Kenny Oldwadge, whose contents have been censored by the judge because of their sensitive nature. Prof Scholtz is the head of psychology at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital where the 27-year-old accused has been evaluated by a four-person panel over the past month.

He is on trial for the premeditated murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by shooting at her four times through a locked toilet door at his Pretoria home on St Valentine's Day last year. He maintains he believed Steenkamp was an intruder. The prosecution say he killed her deliberately after an argument.

"I believe the construction of 'the two Oscars' I referred to earlier gelled into a final split," Prof Scholtz wrote.

Vulnerable

"The one Oscar being an international superstar, more confident and feeling more in control at 1.84m tall. That part of him falling back on his physicality and 'never say die' attitude that had served him so well. Although not completely at ease, he felt less vulnerable in that state.

"The other Oscar being a vulnerable and fearful disabled person, at less than 1.5m once his prostheses were removed and he was alone at night. That part of him falling back on to his anxiety and fear, not feeling in control. Without them (his protheses) he feels defenceless. For this reason he acquired a weapon and even searched for one that was lighter and smaller so that he could always keep it with him."

Prof Wayne Derman, who said he grew to know Pistorius "intimately" through travelling with the team around the world, said Pistorius was one of the 18 fastest people in the world and who was most familiar in pictures of him crossing a finish line with his arms raised triumphantly.

"Without his prostheses he represents a different person," he added. "You've got a paradox of an individual who is suprem-ely able and an individual who is significantly disabled."

He said the athlete had been complicit in hiding his more vulnerable side from the world, which made it more "difficult to understand" now, in the context of his trial.

Cross-examining him, Gerrie Nel asked Prof Derman how he could be impartial, when he had described the reaction of his patient Pistorius to the perceived threat as akin to that of a mother protecting her children from a wild animal.

Dr Derman pointed out that he had backed up each assertion he made with scientific research.

The case was adjourned until Monday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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