The two faces of Oscar Pistori

The two faces of Oscar Pistorius – thrill seeking narcissist or anxious adolescent?

Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp without a doubt, that question has been answered. As his murder trial continues into its third month, the athlete’s fate remains undecided, with one of the key questions being: what kind of man is Oscar Pistorius?

The two faces of Oscar Pistori

Asking not to be filmed or photographed, South African psychiatrist Dr Meryl Vorster has told the court how Oscar Pistorius suffered a traumatic childhood, fuelled by the strain of his parents’ divorce; his mother’s alcohol abuse and her sudden death.

On the witness stand in the North Gauteng High Court, Vorster revealed her diagnosis of Pistorius as having an anxiety disorder that ‘genetically’ stemmed from his mother. She testified, “From the collateral information obtained, it appears that his mother was a very anxious person and abused alcohol intermittently. She slept with a firearm under her pillow, and there were frequent episodes when the police were called into investigate noises she had heard. It appears that the children were not soothed by their mother, but rather they all developed features of anxiety.” Vorster added that the athlete was reared to see his outside environment as threatening.

Despite the depiction of Sheila Pistorius as less than a perfect mother, defence witness Dr Vorster continued by stating that the double amputee’s mother instilled a great confidence and self belief in him and raised him to believe that he was as normal as everyone else. Following his mother’s death when he was 15, the Olympian realised his talent and began running, which led him to achieve international fame as an athlete.

However, the question remains: who is Oscar Pistorius? After gaining success in his professional life, was his private life so marred by the scars of childhood insecurity and does this psychiatric evaluation answer why he shot his girlfriend?

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned the link between Vorster’s psychiatric evaluation and the death of Reeva Steenkamp. She suggested that his actions may have been a result of his fragile mental state.

Prior to the brutal killing of Reeva Steenkamp, at the age of 25, Pistorius made history by becoming the first double amputee to run in the Olympic Games. He was all over the headlines globally, presenting the picture of a charismatic, handsome and charming bionic man. His desire for speed manifested in his collection of fast cars, boats (one of which he crashed) and horses.

The athlete’s need for perfection was highlighted during the 2012 Games, after an outburst when he came second to Brazilian Paralympian Alan Oliveira in the 200m event. He argued that his competitor had an unfair advantage due to the length of his prostheses. Some might argue that this was an early sign of losing control.

In 2013 Pistorius accidentally fired a gun whilst dining in a Johannesburg restaurant and proceeded to blame his friend, the court heard during evidence given by boxer Kevin Lerena.

Ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor also told the court in earlier testimony how Pistorius was no stranger to firearms. On the witness stand she described how he  laughed and joked about shooting a traffic light after being pulled over by police for speeding. She said, “Oscar was very angry. Two minutes later, I saw Oscar take his gun and shoot out of the car sun roof.”  Unashamedly open about his love for firearms, Pistorius often told of his frequent trips to the shooting range when he could not sleep at night. Unfortunately, the accessibility to firearms in South Africa and Pistorius’ questionable compulsion to act resulted in the tragic death of his lover and the inconsolable loss felt by the Steenkamp family.

On Monday, Nel presented the possibility that the accused should be referred for mental health evaluation to ascertain whether his his anxiety disorder played a part in Steenkamp’s death. On Tuesday morning Nel asked Judge Thokizile Masipa to consider an application for mental observation, based on this new psychiatric diagnosis. Court was adjourned to await Masipa’s ruling on the matter, which she will announce on Wednesday.

This entire world recognised a man who to some extent was invincible.  As the trial stretches into its 31st day are we any closer to the truth?

Considering his broken childhood and subsequent incidents involving guns, the case of the fastest man without legs is undoubtedly complex. While the trial highlights ongoing violence in South Africa and how the nation often appears as lawless as the Wild West, the biggest question remains.

What triggered a hero to turn his life upside down after overcoming the harsh reality that many South Africans can only dream of conquering. What really happened that Valentines night and who is Oscar Pistorius? The trial continues.