Tough day ahead for Michelle Burger’s husband in Oscar Pistorius trial

2014-03-05 08:23

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It appears likely that state witness Charl Johnson will today come under the same scrutiny that was endured by his wife, Michelle Burger, shortly before she burst into tears on the witness stand yesterday.

Barry Roux, the advocate representing Pistorius, was highly critical of her evidence during his cross-examination, accusing her of refusing to make even the most obvious concessions if they might be in favour of Pistorius.

Johnson is the third witness to take the stand in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, while Burger was the first.

It seems likely that Johnson will face the same tough questions because his evidence is strikingly similar to that of his wife, who he was with on the evening Reeva Steenkamp was shot by Pistorius.

So similar, in fact, that Roux has seized on the resemblance to argue that Johnson’s statement must have been used as a “template” for Burger’s.

“Paragraph by paragraph, the similarities are striking,” said Roux.

Johnson was yesterday giving his testimony in chief, when he confirmed the version given by Burger, that he had been woken up by a women screaming for help on the night Steenkamp was killed, which was followed by a man screaming “help, help, help”.

Johnson and Burger live on an estate that neighbours Pistorius’ Silver Woods Country Estate.

Johnson testified that he had heard the woman’s screams intensify and that he then heard shots, with the last screams fading away after the shots.

Although Burger had been adamant that it was four shots, Johnson said he recalled a “few shots” and later told people it was five or six.

Johnson also confirmed that he had the impression that somebody was being “attacked in their house” and he was later surprised to learn that Pistorius had said that he’d shot his girlfriend by accident.

“It was difficult for me to believe ... unless it was a house break-in, because I heard both a woman and a man screaming”.

But Roux will likely attack this evidence, putting it to Johnson, as he did to Burger, that what she had heard was not screams but the sound of a distressed Pistorius.

Roux said a witness would be called to testify that when Pistorius screamed, he “sounded like a woman”.

He also said that what Burger heard was not the sound of a gun, but the sound of Pistorius using a cricket bat to break down the door of his bathroom to get to Steenkamp.

Roux has also been critical of a claim that a scream could still be heard after the last shot was fired, saying an expert witness would be called to testify that Reeva was brain damaged after being hit in the head and would not have had any cognitive function.

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