Pistorius neighbour ‘heard fight’

PRETORIA. A second witness at the murder trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has told a court in the capital Pretoria she was awoken by the sounds of a fight early on 14 February 2013.
Oscar Pistorius walked into the court without any apparent glance at the relatives’ bench. Net photo.
Oscar Pistorius walked into the court without any apparent glance at the relatives’ bench. Net photo.

PRETORIA. A second witness at the murder trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has told a court in the capital Pretoria she was awoken by the sounds of a fight early on 14 February 2013.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to intentionally killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

He shot dead the 29-year-old model and reality TV star at his home, saying he mistook her for an intruder. 

Estelle Van Der Merwe, a neighbour, said the row had lasted about an hour.

“It seemed like somebody was involved in a fight,” said Van Der Merwe, who lives in the same gated Pretoria housing estate as the Paralympic athlete. “People were talking in loud voices.”

The argument woke her at about 01:56 local time (23:56 GMT) and lasted about an hour. After that, she heard four loud sounds in succession.

Van Der Merwe was the second witness to take the stand at the murder trial of Pistorius, which began at the high court in on Monday.

The arrest of the 27-year-old double amputee and gold medal winner astounded South Africa.

‘Screams’

For the first time in South Africa, parts of the trial are being televised live, although some witness testimony, including that of Van Der Merwe, is being excluded from TV broadcasts.

However, the audio of the entire trial is being aired.

Van Der Merwe said she had been irritated by the noise of the argument and placed a pillow on her head “in hope of falling asleep again”.

Yesterday’s hearing adjourned not long after the third witness, Charl Peter Johnson - husband to the first witness Michelle Burger - had taken the stand.

The second day of the trial began with defence lawyer Barry Roux quizzing Ms Burger about her account of hearing a woman’s screams, a man calling for help and then four gunshots.

Journalists in court say the defence line was clear that as Steenkamp was in a closed toilet with a closed window, the screams the witness said she heard could not have come from her.

Pistorius was in the bathroom where the window was open so the screams must have come from him.

Roux also suggested expert evidence would prove that Steenkamp would have been unable to scream between shots.

When details of the bullets hitting her head were read out, Pistorius’s head dropped into his hands.

At the start of proceedings on Monday, Roux read out a statement from the athlete, giving his version of events of how Steenkamp had died, saying he believed his girlfriend was in bed when he shot at the toilet door.

State prosecutors say Pistorius planned the killing and shot Steenkamp after a row.

If found guilty of premeditated murder, he could face life imprisonment. 

He has also denied charges of illegally possessing ammunition.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by Judge Thokozile Masipa.

Much of the case will depend on ballistic evidence from the scene of the shooting, media reports say.

 

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