Surgeon’s testimony damaging for Oscar’s version of events

2014-06-30 12:35

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Oscar Pistorius’ first defence witness after a month-long adjournment has testified about how vulnerable the athlete was without his prosthetic legs.

Dr Gerald Versfeld, the orthopaedic surgeon who amputated Pistorius’ legs when he was a baby, today testified that Pistorius would have been “seriously vulnerable in a dangerous situation” if he didn’t have a weapon.

“[When] on his stumps, his ability to flee is severely impaired,” testified Versfeld.

Pistorius was back in court today after three separate reports on his mental state were handed to court. The key findings of all the reports were that there was “no mental defect or mental illness” that had affected Pistorius’ ability to distinguish between right and wrong, or to act in accordance with that distinction.

This means that, according to the evaluations, Pistorius was criminally accountable for his actions at the time of shooting Reeva Steenkamp.

The trial immediately proceeded with Barry Roux, Pistorius’ lawyer, calling Versfeld as the next defence witness.

Versfeld testified that it was very difficult for Pistorius to move around on his stumps, that it caused him extreme pain after a short while and that he was very susceptible to falling over.

He read from a report by Pistorius, which the athlete wrote, that said “the dog has knocked me over many times”.

Versfeld also testified that Pistorius’ ability to move around in the dark was severely compromised. He said that Pistorius needed his hands to balance when on his stumps and that “if he swung a cricket bat with any force, he would tip over”.

But after just a few minutes of cross-examination, it appeared that Versfeld’s testimony may be just as damaging for Pistorius’ own version as it was for the state’s.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel immediately zoomed in on Pistorius’ movements on his stumps on the night Steenkamp was killed.

This included Pistorius’ frantic to-and-fro “running” between the bathroom and his bedroom looking for Reeva, all while on his stumps.

“The most amazing thing of all, on the accused’s version, walking to the bathroom, firing the shots, running back from bathroom, all this was done in darkness,” said Nel.

He also asked how Pistorius would be affected when “he fired four shots with a 9mm pistol, on his stumps”.

“He would have severe difficulty, but it’s possible,” replied Versfeld.

Nel made a point of indicating that Pistorius had been referred to this latest consultation with Versfeld after Pistorius had completed his testimony.

“You saw a person to whom it was very important to indicate severe vulnerability to you?” asked Nel.

“I can’t dispute that,” replied Versfeld.

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