Second state witness tells of fight

A second State witness in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday (04/03/2014) told the court she heard loud voices from his home the night he shot dead Reeva Steenkamp.

Like the State’s first witness, Estelle van der Merwe lived close to Pistorius and her testimony also appeared to contradict the athlete’s statement that it was “unfair and incorrect” to suggest that he had a row with his girlfriend before she died.

Taking the stand just before lunch on day two of the sensational trial, Van der Merwe told the High Court in Pretoria she was kept from sleep around 2am by what sounded like people fighting.

“It lasted for about an hour,” said Van der Merwe said, testifying in Afrikaans through a translator.

Van der Merwe lives in the Silver Wood Country Estate, the same complex where Pistorius shot Steenkamp through a locked toilet door on February 14 – according to his defence because he mistook her for an intruder.

She lived about three houses away from the one where Steenkamp was shot.

Earlier, the first witness, Michelle Burger, was grilled for a second day by Pistorius’s lawyer, Barry Roux, who tried to cast doubt on her credibility and find contradictions between her written statement to the police and her testimony on the stand.

Burger testified that she heard a woman’s piercing cries for help, followed by a man calling for help, before four gunshots rang out.

Like he did on Monday, Roux contended that Pistorius’s voice rose when he was anxious and that hence he sounded like a woman when he screamed.

He put it to Burger that she only heard one person – the accused – cry out before the shooting, but that she was too biased against him to make the slightest concession.

But Burger, an economics lecturer, firmly stuck to her version of events,

“My statement is a few pages long. I’ve been testifying for hours and I can explain the minute details to the court,” she said.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel at one point objected to Roux’s relentless questioning, saying he was badgering Burger.

Shortly afterwards, Roux told the court Steenkamp would have been too severely injured to scream on the fateful morning of February 14 last year.

“There was serious, serious, brain damage,” said Roux.

“It could not have been. She could not have screamed.”

At this, Pistorius broke down for the first time since pleading not guilty to premeditated murder on Monday. He held his head in his hands and cried, and A woman sitting with his family in the public gallery handed him a tissue.

Burger broke down too later, when Nel resumed questioning and asked her how she felt last February when she made her statement to police after the shooting.

“What were your emotions at the time of making the statement?” he asked.

“Raw emotion,” she replied, her voice breaking as she began to cry, reaching for her purse to get a tissue.

She said that for a while after the shooting she had relived Reeva Steenkamp’s screams whenever she took a shower.

Shortly before, Nel had asked her if it would have been possible for a cricket bat to make rapid bangs in succession when striking a door.

Burger said no. Pistorius broke down the door of his toilet with a cricket bat after he shot Steenkamp through it.

Roux had suggested Burger confused the sound of the cricket bat striking the door with shots.

He cross-examined the second witness when the trial resumed on Tuesday afternoon. – Sapa

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