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Oscar Pistorius 'Suicide Risk' – Psychologist's Report


Oscar Pistorius is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is at risk of suicide, a psychologist's report read at his murder trial says.

The report, read by his defence lawyer, said he was mourning his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

On Monday, the court heard that he was not suffering from a mental disorder when he shot Ms Steenkamp.

He denies murder, saying he killed her by mistake when fearing there was an intruder in the house.

The prosecution says the Olympic athlete deliberately killed Ms Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, after the couple had an argument.

Both prosecution and defence have accepted the findings of the psychologist's report. The BBC's Andrew Harding, who was in court, notes that both sides can interpret its findings favourably.

Two reports – one by a psychologist and another by three psychiatrists – were drawn up after a month of tests to evaluate the athlete's state of mind.

The prosecution on Monday noted that the psychiatrists' report said Mr Pistorius, 27, was capable of distinguishing between right and wrong and so should bear criminal responsibility for his actions.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux on Wednesday quoted the second evaluation as saying that Mr Pistorius, a double-amputee, has a history of feeling insecure and vulnerable, especially without his prosthetic legs.

“Should he not receive proper clinical care, his condition is likely to worsen and increase the risks for suicide,” Mr Roux quoted the report as saying.

It also said he did not show signs of narcissism or explosive rage, which is usually seen in men who are abusive to their partners.

The court has previously heard that Ms Steenkamp had sent the athlete a message saying: “I'm scared of you sometimes.”

At the scene: Pumza Fihlani, BBC News, Pretoria
Another defence witness has described Oscar Pistorius as anxious and vulnerable. Professor Wayne Derman, who has known the athlete and treated him for six years testified about his “exaggerated response” when in uncomfortable situations – the “fight or flight” response.

With the case coming to an end, two reports were pitted against each other, with each side quoting favourable excerpts.

A report by a psychologist in the panel found that Mr Pistorius showed no signs of an explosive temper, narcissism or abusive behaviour, while a report by the three psychiatrists concluded that he could distinguish right from wrong.

Both, however, agreed that he did not suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, discrediting the testimony of a previous defence expert, which had led to the month-long, court-ordered evaluation.

How is PTSD diagnosed?
Final defence witness Wayne Derman, professor of sports and exercise medicine at the University of Cape Town, is currently testifying.

Earlier, Mr Pistorius' manager was cross-examined, with prosecutor Gerrie Nel concentrating on the sprinter's reported rows with roommate Arnu Fourie and his love life.

On Tuesday, Peet van Zyl said Mr Pistorius had become a “global icon” at the 2012 London Olympics and could have increased his income five or six times.

He competed in both the Paralympic and Olympic games.

Mr van Zyl said the athlete was also an “astute businessman” and there were a lot of opportunities for him because of his raised profile.

Our correspondent says that as he sat in the dock, Mr Pistorius must surely have contemplated the future outlined by Mr van Zyl – a future now utterly transformed.

Mr van Zyl is among the last defence witnesses to be called.

Our correspondent understands that the prosecution may then ask the psychologist who assessed Mr Pistorius over the past month to give evidence.

The defence team has said Mr Pistorius was suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Mr Pistorius says he fired multiple shots into a toilet cubicle where Ms Steenkamp was, while in a state of panic.

Mr Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp, 29, had been dating for about three months before the shooting.

He has often displayed his emotions during the trial, including breaking down in tears in court.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, so the athlete's fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

If found guilty of murder, Mr Pistorius, who went on trial on 3 March, could face life imprisonment. If he is acquitted of that charge, the court will consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could – if convicted – receive about 15 years in prison.