July 29, 2014
Witness tells Pistorius trial: 'bloodcurdling screams', then four shots
The first witness at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial told the court today she heard "bloodcurdling screams" from a woman followed by shots, a dramatic opening to a case that could see one of global sports' most admired role models jailed for life.
Taking the stand after the Olympic and Paralympic star pleaded not guilty to murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day last year, Michelle Burger, who lives in an estate nearby, testified she was woken up in the middle of the night by a woman shouting for help.
"I was still sitting in the bed and I heard her screams," Burger told the Pretoria High Court, speaking in Afrikaans through an interpreter.
"She screamed terribly and she yelled for help. Then I also heard a man screaming for help. Three times he yelled for help," she said.
Thinking it was a violent break-in, Burger said her husband called the private security firm guarding their upmarket housing estate in Pretoria's eastern suburbs, before the pair heard more shouts.
"I heard the screams again. It was worse. It was more intense," Burger told the court, her voice cracking with emotion. "She was very scared."
"Just after her screams, I heard four shots. Four gun-shots," she said. "Bang ... bang, bang, bang."
"It was very traumatic for me. You could hear that it was bloodcurdling screams." Throughout her testimony, the 27-year-old Pistorius sat impassively, staring at the floor.
The athlete, who was born without legs but reached the 2012 Olympic 400 metres semi-final running on carbon-fibre "blades", argues that Steenkamp's killing was a tragic accident after he mistook her for an intruder hiding in the toilet.
The testimony from Burger, who lived 177 metres from Pistorius' home in a neighbouring housing estate, was not televised live at her request, although the audio was still broadcast.