In this file photo taken on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, Oscar Pistorius, center, cries as he prays with his sister Aimee and brother Carl in the magistrates court in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/File)
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (USA TODAY) - A witness at Oscar Pistorius' murder
trial testified Monday she heard "bloodcurdling screams" from a woman
and then shots, the first testimony in the trial of the Olympic runner.
"I heard her voice during the shots," said neighbor Michele Burger, a University of Pretoria economics professor.
who shot his girlfriend Reeva Steencamp on Valentine's Day 2013, says
he thought she was a burglar when he fired at her. If convicted, the
venerated athlete and a double amputee, faces life in prison.
Burger told the Pretoria court she was suddenly woken by a women screaming at 3 a.m.
was still sitting in the bed and I heard her screams," Burger said.
"She screamed for help. Then I also heard a man screaming for help -
three times he yelled for help. I heard the screams again (and) it was
more intense... she was very scared."
"After, I heard four shots. Four gun shots - bang, bang, bang, bang."
has pleaded not guilty to all four charges against him: murder, two
charges relating to discharge of a firearm in a public place and one
charge of illegal possession of ammunition.
South Africans were
shocked last year when Pistorius, one of the country's most famous
athletes, was charged with shooting his model girlfriend four times
through a toilet door with a pistol.
The case has created a
sensation here where Pistorius, known as "Blade Runner" for his
carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, is among the most famous athletes in the
"I don't know whether the judge will find Oscar guilty or
not," said said Silindile Nyathikazi, a 26-year-old media relations
manager. "I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions with
regards to what happened that night."
Pistorius arrived in North
Gauteng High Court wearing a dark gray suit and black tie. Before the
trial started he walked past the victim's mother who says she came to
court so she can "really look him in the eyes."
Kenny Oldwadge said in his opening statement that the killing was an
accident and that there were inconsistencies in the state's case, as
well as an attempt to introduce inadmissible character evidence to
He said Pistorius brought two fans in from the
balcony on the night of the killing, after speaking to his girlfriend
who was in bed beside him. He said Steenkamp must have gone into the
bathroom while Pistorious was fetching the fans. Pistorius said he did
not notice that she had gone and heard the bathroom window open.
approached the bathroom, armed with my firearm, so as to defend Reeva
and I," Pistorius said in the statement that was read by his lawyer.
said he then heard a noise in the toilet, and was in a "fearful state"
because he was unable to run away or defend himself physically since he
was not wearing his prostheses.
However, the prosecution says some
people heard arguing before the shots. But Pistorious' lawyer said that
claim was an "unsubstantiated" allegation. According to Pistorius'
statement, other neighbors living nearby said they had not heard any
The trial has riveted the attention of the country,
Until last week, it was not clear if the trial would be broadcast
because the judge felt TV cameras would be a "potentially distracting
feature" to witnesses and interfere with a right to a fair trial.
the judge relented and said some of the proceedings will only broadcast
and other portions he said would only be made available to the public
"This is a big mess, it's huge, but I think if he is
guilty he must go to jail," said Nthabiseng Mahlangu, 25, an office
"Some say he is disabled or he was under the influence, but why should he be set free?"
Others believed he was not entirely at fault.
feel sorry for the guy maybe he was on drugs or alcohol or something
but I feel like he is showing remorse," said Helen Mokgope, a
53-year-old office cleaner.
The trial is expected to last about three weeks. Pistorius remains free on bail.
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