The social worker who was appointed probation officer for Oscar Pistorius prior to his bail hearing last year has told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that she believed he was severely traumatized, heartbroken, and in mourning. Yvette van Schalkwyk said that on Tuesday this week she volunteered to give evidence in the murder trial after she had read that people had accused him of being trained to act, and putting on a show in court. She said she did not believe that he was acting and was upset by the accusations.
In spite of an objection by State Advocate Gerrie Nel, that van Schalkwyk’s evidence be ruled inadmissible because it was essentially a response to the State case, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that it was permissible, and allowed the witness to continue giving evidence.
Van Schalkwyk said she first saw Oscar Pistorius in a police cell on the morning he appeared in court for his bail application. It was the day after he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by shooting four bullets through a closed toilet door. From the first second she saw him, she recognized “a man heartbroken about the loss” he had suffered. He was also sorry for her parents and their suffering, she said. Although he cried 80 percent of the time, he talked about the future he and Reeva had been planning together. Most of what he said was about Reeva and his loss, because he loved her, she said.
The social worker, who told the court she has been a probation officer for 24 years, said she was not sure why she was called in, but assumed that it was to “monitor his behavior and for emotional support.” And as a probation officer, she saw “a heartbroken man” who was suffering emotionally. Initially she saw him in a court office, and then at a facility where he had been training privately, because so many media representatives were “camping” outside his home. Thereafter she saw him at his home. She said she had to submit weekly reports, which she did until the conditions of bail changed and Pistorius was no longer “under house arrest.” She read these reports out in court.
According to van Schalkwyk, Pistorius was also referred to a psychologist for intense therapy for the trauma he has been through. In March 2013 he was seeing her on a regular basis and cooperating fully. While there were “lots of emotions,” at the time he was “progressing well” and was not suicidal. In addition he had been tested for prohibited substances and the results were negative, she said.
Gerrie Nel challenged her in his cross-examination, asking if he felt “sorry for himself.” She said did not “perceive” this, but rather that he “missed Reeva.” However, she did agree with Nel that most people accused of murder are likely to feel sorry for themselves. But she was unable to comment on whether the accused in all “family murders” tend to behave in this same way because this was the first time she had ever seen (communicated with) an accused just after arrest.
So you have never seen any adult accused shortly after arrest, only Oscar Pistorius, and he was crying. Nel
Correct. He said he misses Reeva; that is what he said. van Schalkwyk
He had just shot and killed her! Nel
He said he missed Reeva so much. van Schalkwyk
But it is the same man who shot and killed her the day before. Nel
She said she did not know that Pistorius was claiming he shot through the toilet door because “he believed he was under attack.” He told her later that he thought there was an intruder in the house; that he went to get his firearm; and then went to the bathroom where he had heard noises – and shot.
Asked by Nel why she was really in court today, van Schalkwyk reiterated that she was upset by what she had read in the newspaper, that Oscar Pistorius was “not sincere about his feelings.” However, she did not know when he had cried in court during proceedings. “What I saw was a traumatized person, heartbroken.” Nel then asked what she would have expected from a person who had “just shot and killed someone.” She could not answer the question and said “different people react differently in different situations.” But she did agree it was reasonable to expect that someone who had shot and killed a person the previous night would be traumatized. She also agreed, in spite of the fact that she was still adamant he was not acting, that he had never told her he was sorry for what he had done.
By Penny Swift