A neighbour of Oscar Pistorius on Monday (24/03/2014) testified in his murder trial that she had unmistakably heard the screams of both a woman and man coming from his house on the night he shot Reeva Steenkamp.
Occupational therapist Annette Stipp told the High Court in Pretoria she was woken by a coughing fit just before 3am when she heard a first set of three gunshots followed by screams that were clearly “female”,
“Moments after the shots I heard a lady screaming… terrified, terrified screaming,” said Stipp, whose bedroom looks onto the bathroom in Pistorius townhouse in a plush estate in Pretoria.
Stipp and her radiologist husband Johan, who testified earlier in the trial, went to their bedroom balcony and he told her he saw a man moving to the left in the opposite house.
The couple also heard a man scream and, fearing that the noise indicated there was a family murder underway, started ringing emergency numbers. They then heard three more shots.
“I also heard a man screaming … After the second set of shots it just became quiet. There was no more screaming either male or female,” she said.
Under questioning from State prosecutor Gerrie Nel, she said the woman’s screams sounded distinctly different from the male voice she heard months later when Pistorius’s defence team conducted sound tests at the house where he shot Steenkamp last year.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder and his defence team has been arguing that the paralympic athlete sounds like a woman when he screams anxiously.
As the case enters its third week, it appears to have become pivotal to the State’s case to prove that Steenkamp had time to scream as Pistorius fired four shots at her through a locked toilet door.
He claims he believed there was a burglar inside, but the State has been leading evidence suggesting that it is conceivable that he heard his girlfiend cry out behind the door but continued to shoot.
Last week the State called a ballistics expert who said tests showed that the first shot hit Steenkamp in her hip, and the second missed. Earlier, the pathologist who performed the post mortem on Steenkamp, told the court that it would have been “unnatural” for her not to scream after a bullet struck her in the hip.
Kenny Oldwage, for Pistorius, tirelessly tried to fault Stipp on several counts in cross-examination.
He notably challenged her contention that she saw a light on from the left of Pistorius’s bathroom, at the toilet, as events unfolded, as well as to the right.
He submitted that her husband had testified he did not think the light was on, and said Pistorius had told him that at the time of the shooting it was out of order.
“My recollection of that evening is that both sets of lights were on,” she insisted.
Oldwage also honed in on the fact that Stipp amended her initial statement to the police by deleting a sentence stating that she saw a man moving in Pistorius’s house – as her husband did.
Stipp said after thinking about it, she realised that she could not remember seeing a man, and believed she had to strike it from her version.
Oldwage went on to ask Stipp whether she had ever been to the High Court in Pretoria and she confirmed that she spent two days here earlier this month while waiting with other witnesses, including her husband, to be called to the stand.
“So now there were a number of State witnesses together in this room…” responded the lawyer, whose colleague Barry Roux has repeatedly accused other State witnesses of corroborating their testimony to compromise the accused.
Stipp’s husband was the first doctor to arrive at Pistorius’s house after he shot his girlfriend, and has told the court how he found the disabled athlete kneeling next to her, praying that she would survive.
It was clear, he said, that it was too late to save the 29-year-old blonde model Pistorius had been dating for a few months by the time of her death.
Other neighbours have also testified they heard a woman’s piercing cries.
The trial, which is being televised live, has been extended by more than a month and is now expected to conclude on May 16. – Sapa