Mystery of early-morning argument at Oscar Pistorius’ house last month solved

2014-03-04 14:44

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The mysterious argument heard at Oscar Pistorius’ home in the Silver Woods Country Estate earlier this year, was the defence testing screaming, the North Gauteng High Court has heard.

The second witness to take the stand in the Pistorius murder trial today told the court about an argument that took place outside Pistorius’ Pretoria home just less than two weeks ago.

Estelle van der Merwe, who lives about 98m away, testified that she heard what sounded like arguing outside Pistorius’ home on February 21 2014, shortly before 2am.

She testified that it was “dark and I was not sure about the colour, but it seemed like there was a white SUV next to Oscar’s house”.

Barry Roux, for Pistorius, later revealed that the defence had tested a man and woman screaming on the day.

Van der Merwe also testified about hearing arguing and bangs on the night Reeva Steenkamp was murdered.

This evidence concluded a dramatic morning in court, which saw Michelle Burger, who lives in an estate next to Pistorius, breaking down and crying on the witness stand.

This followed a withering cross-examination by Roux, who accused her of refusing to concede anything “that is good for the accused”.

“You see, even when I ask for an obvious concession, you will still not make it ... because it’s good for the accused,” said Roux.

Yesterday, Burger testified that she had heard a woman’s terrified screams – which became increasingly anxious – that she had heard a man cry for help three times and that she then heard four gunshots.

But Roux accused her of coming to testify with preconceptions about Pistorius, which were based on negative media coverage.

“If a man is about to kill his girlfriend with a firearm, she runs away and he shoots her, one thing that’s inconsistent [in that] is a man in that house shouting for help to the extent that you reconcile that with them being attacked,” Roux said to her.

Roux put it to Burger that what she had really heard was not the screams of a woman, but those of Pistorius, after he had discovered that it was Reeva he had killed.

She refused to concede this, saying that it wasn’t possible because she had heard the woman screaming just before the man’s plea for help.

Roux also questioned if it was possible for Burger to have heard screams during the shots and fading away after the shots, as she had testified.

He said a state witness would testify that Reeva had probably dropped down immediately after being hit in the head with a bullet.

Roux said there was evidence that “there was serious brain damage and our evidence will be that a person with that kind of brain damage would have no response, no cognitive function,” he said.

However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel challenged this, saying that the first bullet hit Reeva in the thigh, the second missed, the third hit her shoulder and a fourth bullet hit her hand, which was covering her head, fragmenting and then hitting her in the head too.

Roux also challenged the state to take Burger to Pistorius’ house to see if she could be heard screaming from 177m away, the distance to her house.

“You were able, 177m away, in your version, to hear emotion in her voice, increased intensity and fear to the extent that she was threatened ... when she was locked in a toilet?” Roux asked.

He also said it would have been impossible for Burger to distinguish between gunshots and the sounds of a cricket bat hitting a door because she had never heard a cricket bat hitting a door.

However, Nel came back to this point in re-examination. He asked Burger how she would hit a door with a heavy cricket bat.

She indicated that she would swing it back over her shoulder.

Nel then asked if it was possible for someone to make those motions as fast as she heard the four bangs.

“Not the second and third time,” she replied.

» Watch/listen to the trial live on our homepage at www.citypress.co.za. Follow Charl du Plessis and Biénne Huisman’s coverage here. And on Twitter: @City_Press

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