Pistorius too traumatized to testify, psychiatrist tells court

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius is too traumatized to testify on how he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a psychiatric expert said Monday at the start of court proceedings to sentence him for murder.

An appeals court had overturned his initial conviction for manslaughter.

The 29-year-old suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Jonathan Scholz told the court in Pretoria, adding that he was on medication and that his condition was "severe."

Pistorius was holding his face in his hands while listening to Scholz say his psychological condition had worsened to include social phobia and fear of going out.

A murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in South Africa, though Pistorius' sentence could be reduced to take into account time already served.

Pistorius fired four shots at Steenkamp through a locked toilet door at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of February 14 - Valentine's Day – 2013. The 29-year-old model died at the scene.

Judge Thokozile Masipa accepted Pistorius' version that he mistook her for a burglar and sentenced him to five years in prison. After serving one year, he was released into house arrest at his uncle's Pretoria mansion in October 2015.

The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the verdict in December, arguing Pistorius must have known his shots could kill someone. In early March, the Constitutional Court denied the athlete the right to appeal.

Masipa will now review her initial sentence after defence and prosecution lawyers, experts and witnesses have been heard at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Pistorius does not have characteristics compatible with an anti-social or psychopathic personality, Scholz testified at the court session broadcast live by the television channel eNCA.

He described Pistorius as having had a difficult life, getting his legs amputated due to a medical condition before he was one year old, his parents divorcing when he was 15, and being raised by a mother whose strong fear of crime worsened his anxiety.

His mother died when he was 15 and his father was absent from his life.

Following the killing of Steenkamp, “his fall from grace was enormous. He was vilified. He was unable to properly mourn her loss,” Scholz said.

To worsen things, Pistorius' sister left South Africa mainly because of the stress created by the court case, the psychiatrist testified.

The court proceedings and sentencing were due to last until Friday at the latest.

The double-amputee sprinter, dubbed Blade Runner, soared to international fame when becoming the first amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in 2012 in the Olympic Games.

Last update: Mon, 13/06/2016 - 11:41

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