The first witness in the Reeva Steenkamp murder trial, Oscar Pistorius’ neighbour Dr. Michelle Burger, has given her testimony of the fatal events that transpired on Valentine’s Day 2013, describing how she awoke to “bloodcurdling screams” followed by four gunshots (“Bang… bang, bang, bang”) in a statement Pistorius’s defence lawyer has tried to discredit on the basis that Oscar Pistorius sounds like a woman when he screams.
Pistorius began the first day of the expected six week proceedings with a plea of “not guilty, My Lady” to the “unlawful and intentional” killing of Steenkamp, followed by the reading of his written statement declaring “in the strongest terms” that there is “no basis whatsoever” to the state’s attempted “character assassination” with its “unsubstantiated allegations” and “inadmissible evidence”, and that Pistorius could not possibly have wanted to kill Steenkamp because “[they] were in a loving relationship.”
Dr. Burger then proceeded to tell the court, millions live-streaming the trial globally and watching on television that she and her husband awoke at 3:00am to the sound of a woman’s “terrible, very scared, absolutely petrified, blood-curdling screams and shouts” followed by a man yelling “three times for help” and then the sound “four shots”.
During cross-examination, Pistorius’ barrister Barry Roux SC tried to discredit Burger’s testimony by pointing out discrepancies in the number of gun shots fired between her oral statement, given in Afrikaans to police, and her husband’s account; suggesting that she was asleep at the time of the fatal gunshots and instead heard the sound of Pistorius banging on the bathroom door with a cricket bat’ and that, when anxious, Pistorius “sounds like a woman screaming” – an artful flourish of bar-raising, imaginative legal council hereafter colloquially referred to as the Purple Drapes defence.
“My Lady,” Burger told Judge Thokozile Masipa in response to Roux’s assertion that she awoke only to the sound of wood on wood, “I’ve heard gunshots before. I think most South Africans know when they hear gunshots.”
The trial is scheduled to resume this evening (AEDT).
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