Pistorius trial witness: 'bloodcurdling screams' then shots

Mon Mar 3, 2014 4:53pm EST
 
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By David Dolan

PRETORIA (Reuters) - The first witness at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial told the court on Monday she heard "bloodcurdling screams" from a woman followed by shots, a dramatic opening to a case that could see one of global sport's most admired role models jailed for life.

Taking the stand after the Paralympic and Olympic star pleaded not guilty to murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day last year, neighbor Michelle Burger testified that she was woken in the middle of the night by a woman shouting for help.

"I was still sitting in the bed and I heard her screams," Burger, who lives 177 meters (194 yards) from Pistorius' home in an adjacent housing complex, told the Pretoria High Court.

"She screamed terribly and she yelled for help. Then I also heard a man screaming for help. Three times he yelled for help," she said, speaking in Afrikaans through an interpreter.

Thinking it was a violent break-in - a possibility in crime-ridden South Africa - Burger said her husband called the private security firm guarding their upmarket Pretoria housing estate before the pair heard more shouts.

"I heard the screams again. It was worse. It was more intense," said Burger, a Pretoria University economics lecturer. "She was very scared," she added, her voice cracking with emotion.

"Just after her screams, I heard four shots. Four gun-shots," she said. "Bang ... bang, bang, bang."

"It was very traumatic for me. You could hear that it was bloodcurdling screams." After the final shot, the screams "started fading", she added later.   Continued...

 
Oscar Pistorius sits in court ahead of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria March 3, 2014. REUTERS/Themba Hadebe/Pool