Inside Oscar Pistorius's mind

2014-07-06 15:09
Oscar Pistorius looks on during his murder trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. (Daniel Born, AFP)

Oscar Pistorius looks on during his murder trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. (Daniel Born, AFP)

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Johannesburg - “We had such a bright future and now it is dark.”

This is what a broken and lonely Oscar Pistorius told clinical psychologist Melissa Fernihough during his mental evaluation at Pretoria’s Weskoppies Hospital, City Press reported on Sunday.

The detailed psychological report reveals that the only thing stopping Pistorius from taking his own life is his belief that “his family has been through enough”.

“He initially denied having suicidal thoughts but indicated that he does think that things would be easier if he was dead,” Fernihough wrote.

Pistorius also told her that before he killed Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s morning last year: “I was someone going somewhere, I was so positive about my future, I was a person who loved being around people, especially my family and friends”.

Now, writes Fernihough, he’s “not sure about anything”.

The findings of the mental evaluation can be published in detail today after City Press's lawyers reached an agreement with Pistorius’s legal team over its publication.

Before adjourning court proceedings on Thursday, Judge Thokozile Masipa banned the media from reporting on its contents but late on Friday she agreed to allow City Press to publish a redacted version in terms of the agreement reached.

Masipa indicated she will amend her order preventing the report’s publication on Monday.

The psychiatric report consists of three separate documents. The first report was written by psychologist Professor Jonathan Scholtz, to which Fernihough’s report is attached. The second was compiled by three psychiatrists who assessed him to determine whether his boating accident in impacted on his mental functioning.

Broken man

Scholtz and Fernihough’s reports paint a picture of a broken man who has lost interest in life.

Since shooting Steenkamp, Pistorius has lost 10kg, battles to sleep and survives on anti-depressants.

He said he felt “frustrated and alone”, that he is “going nowhere and that it won’t get better despite his faith”. He is also, at times, unable to accept his situation.

He admitted to Fernihough that he “feels more worthless as compared to other people, he feels guilty all the time and that he is being punished.”

Since the shooting, Pistorius has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, is severely depressed and is at risk of suicide.

He also spoke about having “lost many of his friends because he no longer enjoys socialising or going out and ascribes this to the continuous media scrutiny that he is under, his low mood and fearfulness”.

And while he used to keep himself in top physical shape, he no longer participates in much physical activity and tends to keep to himself.

The report also points to his deep feelings of guilt about the impact his trial is having on his family.

Pistorius, the report says, “currently experiences family relationships as challenging… as he believes that he is the cause of unhappiness within the family and that he has disappointed his family by his actions”.

Burden to family

“He views himself as a burden on his family but recognises that his family members will continue to support him, because this is expected of them and because they genuinely care about him.”

The report also delves into Pistorius’ past – his fractured relationship with his father and the loss of his mother. It reveals how his brother, Carl, took on the role of father after their parents divorced.

“This role included handling difficult situations with their mother, like when she had been anxious and drank a few glasses of wine too many or not waking up at night when the younger children cried out.”

In his report, Scholz wrote that Pistorius lived “the lonely type of life often reported by elite athletes” which meant that “maintaining an intimate relationship was almost impossible”.

Although he was often approached by beautiful women including models, he believed most only wanted to be with him because of his superstar status.

“Although he got a lot of attention from glamorous and beautiful women he never engaged with them on any meaningful level, being distrustful of their motives and not convinced they could fulfil his emotional needs,” he wrote.

Scholz also writes that Pistorius lost his way.

“He admits he went through a period where he made the wrong choice of friends and often acted in a way that he wasn’t proud of.”

Some of the report’s findings appear to bolster Pistorius’s defence – such as the section which found that he had a normal “loving relationship” with Steenkamp which was “probably only the second one where he felt trust, sincerity and real companionship.”

Aggression

Scholtz also found that he did not display the character traits of psychopathy or narcissism, which men men in abusive relationships show, and had no history of “abnormal aggression or explosive violence”. This contradicts the State’s case which has tried to paint Pistorius as a man who easily loses his temper.

Other findings, however, appear to bolster the State’s case – such as Scholtz’s statement that there was no evidence to support the defence’s evidence that Pistorius “suffered from anxiety to the extent that it impaired his functioning”.

He also found that Pistorius did not suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), as defence forensic psychologist Dr Merryl Vorster testified.

Both the defence and the prosecution have noted the contents of the reports, which found Pistorius was criminally accountable for his actions on the night Steenkamp was killed. However, neither side has accepted it as fact and its contents may be debated during closing arguments. It will be up to Judge Masipa to decide how much weight to give it.

On Sunday night, Australia’s Channel 7 programme Sunday Night will air exclusive footage of Pistorius re-enacting Steenkamp’s shooting. It’s understood the footage was bought from forensic artists The Evidence room which create graphic and visual illustrations of crime scenes for use in criminal trials.

The material was commissioned by Pistorius’s lawyers, but was never shown in court. In a promo for the documentary, Pistorius is shown running on his stumps with his arm outstretched simulating holding a gun.

The issue was hotly debated in court this week with the defence arguing that Pistorius can’t balance on his stumps. Pistorius’s doctor, Wayne Derman, testified last week that Pistorius cannot run because he has “no legs”.

Meanwhile, the Steenkamp family is relieved that an end is in sight. Reeva’s mother, June, is eager to put the trial behind her and to return to farm life on the Port Elizabeth plot she shares with husband Barry.

'Hero'

Gerrie Nel is their family’s “hero”.

“He is a hero to June and the family, but we don’t chase after him or anything, we understand the importance of leaving him to do his job,” said a source close to the family.

The source said “it’s been a long road” but the family is holding up well. Reeva’s father was not able to attend proceedings, the source said, because he simply would not have coped.

“He’s a softie, sitting in court would have broken his heart.”

A British newspaper company which bought rights to interviews with the family funded June’s flights between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.



Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial  |  crime
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