PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/PHILL MAGAKOE/POOL
(Reuters) – Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter on trial for murder for shooting his girlfriend, was not suffering from a mental condition at the time she was killed, a psychiatric report said on Monday.
Pistorius, who competed in the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, has admitted to shooting dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but maintains he mistook her for an intruder hiding in his toilet in an upmarket Pretoria suburb.
The trial, which began in March, took a month-long break to allow the 27-year-old to undergo tests at Pretoria’s Weskoppies hospital after a forensic psychologist brought by the defense testified he had an anxiety disorder.
The defense has only a few more witnesses to call before the trial reaches the verdict stage.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said it was important to find out whether the condition affected his criminal responsibility.
“At the time of the alleged offences, the accused did not suffer from a mental disorder or mental defect that affected his ability to distinguish between the rightful or wrongful nature of his deeds,” Prosecutor Gerrie Nel read from a report submitted to the court.
Both Nel and defense lawyer Barry Roux accepted the findings of a panel of psychiatrists and psychologists after 30 days of evaluation.
During the trial, prosecutors have tried to paint a picture of a self-obsessed Pistorius who knowingly killed his law graduate girlfriend as she cowered behind a locked bathroom door. Pistorius could face a life sentence if found guilty of the shooting on Valentine’s Day last year.
Following the assessment report, Pistorius’ defense called sound expert Ivan Lin, who questioned whether neighbors 177 meters (193 yards) away could have heard screams coming from the toilet, or identified them as a man or woman.
“At 177 meters away, if the scream was from the toilet, it is highly unlikely that the listener can hear the screams, let alone interpret the sound source reliably,” he said
Lin’s testimony, which is yet to be cross-examined, comes after state witness and Pistorius neighbor Michelle Burger testified that she was woken in the middle of the night by “bloodcurdling screams” from a woman, followed by shots.
Pistorius competed against able-bodied sprinters on carbon-fibre prosthetics, becoming one of the most recognized names in athletics. Besides a clutch of Paralympic medals, he reached the semi-finals of the 400m at the London 2012 Olympics.
(Writing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Ed Cropley and Tom Heneghan)