PRETORIA (Reuters) – Double-amputee Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius can’t flee dangerous situations and has a “heightened fight response” due to his disability, a defense witness told his murder trial on Thursday.
Pistorius, who had his lower-legs amputated at birth, could face life in prison if he is found guilty of murdering his law graduate and model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot and killed at his home in Pretoria on Valentine’s Day last year.
His defense team have sought throughout the trial to portray Pistorius as a vulnerable individual who killed 29-year-old Steenkamp accidentally after mistaking her for an intruder hiding behind a closed toilet door.
The prosecution has argued that Pistorius is a gun-obsessed hot-head who regularly lost his temper with Steenkamp.
Sports psychology expert Professor Wayne Derman told the Pretoria High Court on Thursday that Pistorius had a life-long fear of crime and would be more likely to confront danger when standing on his stumps, as he was when he shot Steenkamp.
“He is not able to flee because of his disability, his fight response dominates his behavior … resulting in an exaggerated fight response which culminated in this horrific tragedy,” Derman said.
The trial was adjourned until Monday after state prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked for more time to consult one of the psychiatrists who participated in the evaluation of Pistorius to clarify technical aspects of Derman’s testimony.
The murder trial resumed this week after a month-long break for Pistorius, known as ‘Blade Runner’ because of the carbon-fibre prosthetics he uses in competition, to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
The court heard on Monday that the athlete was not suffering from a mental condition when he shot Steenkamp, meaning he had the ability to distinguish between the rightful or wrongful nature of his actions.
Pistorius was once revered around the world as the ultimate example of triumph over adversity as he overcame his disability to compete alongside able-bodied athletes at the London 2012 Olympics.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Siyabonga Sishi; Editing by Joe Brock)