Pistorius begins tests at Pretoria psychiatric hospital

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius arrives at the court Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Olympic and Paralympic track star must report to the hospital every weekday

Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has entered a psychiatric hospital in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, for the start of his mental evaluation.

The judge at his murder trial has ordered that his mental state be assessed by health experts as an outpatient for up to 30 days.

It comes after a defence witness said the double amputee was suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (Gad).

Mr Pistorius denies intentionally killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The Olympic and Paralympic track star says he accidentally shot her through the toilet door on Valentine's Day last year in a state of panic, mistaking the 29-year-old model and law graduate for an intruder.

Criminal responsibility

Mr Pistorius arrived before 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT) at Weskoppies psychiatric hospital, where he will be assessed for seven hours.

He will have to do this every weekday for the next month; the court's proceedings are not set to resume until 30 June.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp had been dating for about three months before the fatal shooting

Three psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist are to determine whether his state of mind and disability had an effect on him when he shot Ms Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said they would "inquire into whether the accused by reason of mental illness or mental defect was at the time of the commission of the offence criminally responsible for the offence as charged".

She said the team would decide whether he was "capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act".

The panel of experts is also expected to interview some of Mr Pistorius' family members, South Africa's eNCA broadcaster reports.

The prosecution had argued the tests were essential after forensic psychiatrist Merryll Vorster, who diagnosed the athlete with Gad, told the court he was "a danger to society".

The defence vigorously opposed the move.

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

•Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a medically-recognised, long-term condition

•People with Gad feel anxious on most days and worry about a wide range of issues

•It is thought to affect around one in 25 people at some point in their lives and is more common in women than in men

•Symptoms vary - making it tricky to diagnose

•People with Gad may have difficulty concentrating, feel tired and irritable, feel sick, dizzy or sweaty and experience aches and pains

•Gad tends to run in families, can follow stressful events, and may be linked to chemical imbalances in the brain

•The main treatments include using talking therapies, relaxation techniques and medication

Legal experts say that the case may well hinge on the judge's understanding of the athlete's state of mind when he pulled the trigger.

They say the prosecution is keen to show that the defence keeps changing its reasons why Mr Pistorius fired his gun - from putative self-defence, to accidental shooting, and now to something linked to his anxiety disorder.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, so the athlete's fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

If found guilty of murder, Mr Pistorius could face life imprisonment. If he is acquitted of that charge, the court will consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

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Media captionThe BBC's Michelle Roberts explains what Generalised Anxiety Disorder is

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