Pistorius's mobility under scrutiny

Oscar Pistorius's orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gerald Versfeld is currently on the stand.

Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria on 30 June 2014. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - Oscar Pistorius's ability to move around on his stumps and maintain his balance has been called into question at his murder trial underway in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Pistorius's murder trial resumed this morning in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria after the athlete completed a 30 day psychiatric evaluation at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital as an out-patient.

The psychiatric report revealed that Pistorius did not have a mental defect when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

The 'Blade Runner' says he shot the model by accident, while the state maintains it was a case of premeditated murder.

The state and the defence have both accepted the findings.


Defence Advocate Barry Roux led evidence this morning by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gerald Versfeld who amputated the athlete's legs as a child.

Versfeld asked Pistorius to take off his prostheses in court so he could explain why it's difficult for the athlete to balance on his stumps.

The orthopaedic surgeon said it's difficult for the athlete to walk, let alone run on his stumps.

Versfeld said Pistorius finds it very difficult to move his body and has to make up to seven movements just to turn around.

But prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that Pistorius was not only able to move around the house on his stumps without falling but that he could also do so holding a gun.

The prosecutor challenged Versfeld on his ability to make the finding that the accused is "vulnerable in a dangerous situation'.

Versfeld disputed this and said it's highly dangerous.

Nel also questioned how the athlete would be able to move on his stumps in pitch black darkness after he told his doctor he relies on light to balance.

Roux interjected on several occasions, saying Nel is not relaying his client's entire version during cross-examination.

Versfeld said he based his findings on what Pistorius told him and then tried to balance that against whatever clinical evidence he could find as a doctor.

Nel said the answer is not sufficient and said he doesn't believe Versfeld is qualified to make such a claim.

Versfeld said he has taken an objective approach in his testimony.

Nel asked, "Did you not ask him about what happened on the night?"

"Not at all," responded Versfeld.

Versfeld also conceded that Pistorius could have run away from the bathroom, but not as "you and I would run".

He also said it's possible that Pistorius never fell that night.

The prosecutor then asked, "But he did run. He ran and turned around, on tiles and he didn't fall over."

Nel then moved on to how Pistorius managed while holding and firing his gun.

The orthopaedic surgeon said "It's possible for Oscar to fire his pistol, but he would have had severe difficulty."

The prosecutor brought an important fact, "If the accused foresaw that he would struggle to balance while firing, perhaps he would have leant with his back against the wall?"

Versfeld said that would definitely have helped him balance.


When court resumed after Versfeld's demonstration, he went on with his testimony on Pistorius's stumps.

"When walking or standing on his stumps he finds himself in danger of falling. On his stumps in a dangerous situation, his ability to flee is significantly impaired."

Roux asked him, "Colonel Vermeulen testified that the accused struck the door while on his stumps, is that possible?"

Versfeld replied, "I don't believe he would be able to strike anything with any kind of force because he'd lose his balance."

The orthopaedic surgeon then described how nerve endings in joints tell the brain where it is, but Pistorius's stumps do not have these.

"Oscar relies on sight to see where his legs are. This explains why his balance is worse in the dark."

Get live updates from the trial on EWN's live blog for more background, visit EWN's Oscar Pistorius portal.