Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Oscar Pistorius Trial...A second witness tells court she was awoken by the sounds of a fight early on 14 February 2013....

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.

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

(FILE) In Profile: Oscar Pistorius
‘Both his profound ability and his profound disability will be key to this case’. Photograph: Gallo/Getty

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 Ms 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.

Ms Van Der Merwe was the second witness to take the stand at the murder trial of Mr 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.


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

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

Mrs 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".

Oscar Pistorius blocks his ears as he concentrates on his notes on the second day of the trial 
There is intense media interest in the trial
The country was stunned when the athlete shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp

Tuesday'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.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in court says the defence line was clear that as Ms Steenkamp was in a closed toilet with a closed window, the screams the witness said she heard could not have come from her.

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

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

When he read out details of the bullets hitting her head, Mr Pistorius's head dropped into his hands, our correspondent says.

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

State prosecutors say Mr Pistorius planned the killing and shot Ms 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, correspondents say.

1. Balcony

Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

2. Bathroom noise

Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through the a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

"Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

3. Shooting

Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims made by the prosecution that he was on his prosthesis when he shot at the door.

A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman's screams and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

4. Bedroom

At his bail hearing last year, Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, then noticed Ms Steenkamp was not in bed.

Mr Pistorius said he then realised she could have been in the toilet.

5. Toilet door

Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

6. Emergency calls

Mr Pistorius told his bail hearing he called the manager of his guarded and gated housing complex and a private paramedic service. He then carried Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

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