Screaming like a girl: Can you tell the difference?

2014-04-06 14:00

Oscar Pistorius was mocked when his legal team claimed in court that the athlete “screams like a girl” when he’s afraid.

So City Press decided to put the matter to the test. Can you tell the difference between a man and a woman screaming from behind a closed door in the early hours of the morning?

We took a group of six people?–?three men and three women?–?and put them in a toilet at 2am.

From 70m away (the distance between Pistorius, and Johan and Anette Stipp’s house), each of the six test subjects listened to a set of four screams and indicated which they thought were men screaming and which were women.

The screamers randomly decided the order of the screams, with men trying to scream like women and women occasionally screaming like men.

The results were surprising. Four of the 13 screams of men trying to sound feminine (30%) were mistakenly attributed to a woman.

On just two occasions, a woman managed to dupe the listener into thinking she was a man.

The tests also show that screams can be heard clearly from a distance of 70m, although a small window was open in the toilet cubicle.

According to Barry Roux, this window was closed on the night that Pistorius shot Steenkamp. But at a distance of more than 150m, it was not possible to hear any screams.

This is significant because witnesses Michelle Burger and Charl Johnson live 177m from Pistorius’ house, but also claimed to have heard screaming. There was, however, a greater degree of ambient noise in our experiment.

For Pistorius, the nature of his screaming is no laughing matter.

Criminal lawyers and forensic experts agree that some of the most damning evidence he will have to endure during his cross-examination is that of four witnesses who said they heard screaming before what they believed to be gunfire.

If the court accepts this evidence, it would mean that Pistorius’ story about mistakenly shooting an intruder looks shaky.

Professor Stephen Tuson, a professor of criminal law at the University of the Witwatersrand, told City Press: “If the court accepts evidence that there was arguing before shooting, then he [Pistorius] is absolutely guilty of murder.”

.?City Press understands that its experiment was not particularly scientific. Experts hired by Pistorius’ legal team conducted a similar test at the athlete’s home.

Screams in the Night Oscar

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