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Defense tries to shake witness on third day of Oscar Pistorius's murder trial

Published Mar 5, 2014, 7:49 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 11:22 am IST
Second witness in Pistorious trial, heard screams and gunshots on the night when Reeva Steenkamp was killed
Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp waits prior to a hearing of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, on Wednesday. Photo- AFP
 Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp waits prior to a hearing of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, on Wednesday. Photo- AFP

Pretoria: A neighbour of Oscar Pistorius is testifying on the third day of the murder trial of the double-amputee athlete, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend in his home in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day last year.

Charl Johnson resumed his testimony on Wednesday after telling the court a day earlier that he heard screams and gunshots on the night that Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp. Johnson's wife, Michelle Burger, a university professor had given similar testimony and at one point broke down in tears because of what she said was the memory of the terrified screams of a woman.


The chief defense lawyer to undermine the prosecution testimony of a couple said that the similarities in their accounts indicated that they had aligned their versions at the expense of the truth.

Defense lawyer Barry Roux said there were differences between the statements that Johnson and Burger had given to police after the shooting, and testimony that they gave in court. Both the statements and the testimony shared similarities, Roux said, implying that the couple had contaminated their evidence by talking through what they were going to say.

"You could just as well have stood together in the witness box," Roux said. "What do you say to that?".  The tart assertion drew a caution from Judge Thokozile Masipa, who told Roux he had gone too far.

Roux contended that crucial elements in the testimony of the couple were missing in their earlier comments to police, including the statements that they heard a woman's screams rising in anxiety and intensity and that they heard the woman's voice "fading" after the last in a volley of gunshots.

Johnson suggested that he and his wife were more expressive while testifying in court than when providing information for a police document. "I would venture a guess that it's the way you verbally tell the story," he said. "There's a lot more emotion involved ... whereas the statement is more factual."

At the beginning of proceedings on Wednesday, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Johnson's telephone number had been read out in court a day earlier. Johnson then said he had since received a "large amount" of missed calls. He described one voicemail message as saying: "Why are you lying in court? You know Oscar didn't kill Reeva. It's not cool."

Before the third day proceeding started Pistorius talked briefly with his chief lawyer, Roux. Members of Steenkamp's family, including her cousin Kim, were in the court. Pistorius has said the shooting was an accident.

Earlier in his affidavit, the sporting hero known as the "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fibre running blades, says he called two numbers after realising he shot Steenkamp: Johan Stander, who was involved in the administration of the gated community where he lived and private medical service Netcare.

The prosecution is expected to probe his relationship with Stander and why Pistorius allegedly dismissed security guards who rang his house after hearing gun shots, telling them everything was fine. The prosecution could attempt to prove Pistorius killed Steenkamp in a rage and then attempted to cover up evidence.

On Monday Pistorius pleaded not guilty as soon as his trial opened with a neighbour's account, the first witness Michelle Burger, the university economist.  Burger on the first day said, that she heard terrible screams coming from Pistorious home on the night of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's death.

At around 3 am (0100 GMT) on Valentine's Day last year, Burger told the court in Pretoria that she awoke to hear a woman's voice.

However the trial on Tuesday was adjourned after the photograph of Michelle Burger was shown on a local South African news channel.