Witness grilled by Oscar's defence team

2014-03-03 14:37
Lawyer Barry Roux speaks to his client Oscar Pistorius in the North Gauteng High Court. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

Lawyer Barry Roux speaks to his client Oscar Pistorius in the North Gauteng High Court. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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Oscar trial - witness analysis, day 1

2014-03-03 17:18

As day one of the trial comes to an end, criminal law expert William Booth shares his views on the first witness to be called to the stand.WATCH

Pretoria - A witness was grilled on Monday on whether she thought Paralympian Oscar Pistorius lied at his bail hearing when he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Barry Roux, SC, for Pistorius, began cross-examining Michelle Burger by asking her if she believed "Oscar Pistorius lied".

"As you stand there, as you testify in chief, you do it from the perspective that Oscar Pistorius lied in the bail application and his defence is a lie?"

She replied: "I could not understand how I could clearly hear a woman scream but Mr Pistorius could not hear that."

Pistorius said he thought an intruder was in the house when he fired four shots through the door of the toilet at his home and killed Steenkamp who was inside. He was horrified to find that Steenkamp was inside.

She died on the scene.

Roux asked: "Do you believe the man?"

Screams, shots

Burger said there were four screams, that a man screamed help three times.

She said Roux should ask another question if her answer was not clear enough.

He said she either did or did not think he lied at his bail application.

She said if he said he did not hear a woman scream, then he had to explain that to the court.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Burger lives in Silverstreams, which is next door to Pistorius's home Silverwoods. Her and her husband were woken by a woman's screams, a man's screams, then four shots.

Earlier, Burger testified in Afrikaans about how she heard a woman's "blood-curdling" screams coming from his house the night he shot Steenkamp.

Burger said she and her husband woke up just after 03:00 when they heard the noise. Her husband rushed to the balcony.

"I was still sitting in the bed and I heard her screams," she told the court.

"She called for help. She screamed terribly and shouted for help. Then I heard a man also call for help. He called for help three times."

Burger said her husband called security guards and asked them to investigate.

"Then I heard her screams again," said Burger. "It was like a climax. I heard her anxiety. She was very scared."

Burger then heard shots, with a longer pause between the first and second shot than the rest.

"It was bang.....bang,bang,bang," she said.

Burger said she only learnt at work that Pistorius was arrested and then realised from aerial photographs shown in media footage just how close to him she lived.


The court adjourned for lunch after Burger left the stand.

Pistorius, who wore a black suit and tie, looked at his watch, got up and walked out alone, shaking hands with a few people along the way.

The case had started 90 minutes late as justice officials had to locate an interpreter to allow Burger to give testimony in Afrikaans.

While the opening arguments of the State and the defence were broadcast live on television, her face was not shown as she had requested to testify off camera.

It remains unclear whether Pistorius will take the stand in what has been dubbed the trial of the decade.

Oldwage on Monday read Pistorius's version of events to the court. In the statement, Pistorius insisted: "I approached the bathroom to defend Reeva and I," and objected to what he called the State's attempts at character assassination.

Nel told the court that since there were no eye witnesses, the State will rely on circumstantial and forensic evidence to convict Pistorius.

Burger could be followed by more than 100 other state witnesses as the seasoned prosecutor sets out to do so in the glare of intense media scrutiny.

More than 300 reporters have vied for space in the court room and an overflow court and a scrum of local and foreign photographers have set up watch outside the court.

Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  pistorius trial

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