The murder trial of Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius resumes today after the state’s first witness recounted the “blood-curdling screams” of a woman in the early hours of the morning his girlfriend was shot.
“Just after 3, I woke up from a woman’s terrible screams,” Michelle Burger, the first witness and a neighbor of Pistorius, told the court yesterday. “She screamed terribly and she yelled for help.” Burger said she heard a shot and then three more shots after a pause.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, pleaded not guilty yesterday in the Pretoria High Court to purposefully shooting model Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria on Valentine’s Day last year as his lawyer Barry Roux argued that it was a case of accidental death.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has admitted to shooting Steenkamp three times while she was in his bathroom, believing she was an intruder. He also denied guilt for three separate firearms charges. The presiding judge, Thokozile Matilda Masipa, will rule on the case as South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
Members of both families sat in the first of six rows of benches in the wood-paneled court for a trial, broadcast live on radio and parts of the proceedings on television, to hear Pistorius deny a dispute with Steenkamp.
“There was no argument,” Roux said in court, reading a statement from Pistorius. “I deny this allegation in the strongest terms.”
Pistorius, who has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February 2013, wrote notes to his legal team from the accused bench. Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, left the court surrounded by family members shortly before a throng of cameramen and onlookers mobbed Pistorius’s car after he left the building.
Roux questioned differences in testimony from Burger, one of more than 100 witnesses the prosecution may call, and her initial statement to police.
Apart from the murder charge, Pistorius faces two counts of illegally firing a gun in public and one of illegally possessing ammunition.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE) and Luxottica Group SpA’s (LUX) Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.
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