Oscar Pistorius trial: Witness says that she heard 'bloodcurdling screams' followed by four shots as athlete pleads not guilty to murdering Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius comes face-to-face with Steenkamp's mother for the first time since shooting

Pretoria

“Blood curdling screams”, followed by the sound of gunfire, were heard coming from the home of Oscar Pistorius on the night he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, according to the first witness to testify in the case, which began yesterday at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa.

“The fear in that woman’s voice, you only fear like that if your life is threatened,” said Dr Michell Burger, whose home is next to the boundary of the Silverwoods Estate where Pistorius’s villa is situated.

Dr Burger said she and her husband were awoken by the sound at around three o clock in the morning.

“I sat upright in bed and my husband also woke up,” she said. “My husband jumped up and went to the balcony. I was still sitting in the bed and heard her screams. She screamed terribly and yelled for help. And then I also heard a man screaming for help three times, he yelled for help.

“When the shots started I heard a woman scream. It was during the shots that I heard her. After the fourth shot, her screams faded away.”

She said there had been a long pause between the first shot and the subsequent three. “It was bam (pause) bam bam bam.” She added: “I said, ‘I hope that woman did not see her husband being shot in front of her’ because after he called for help we did not hear him again.” After hearing on the news the next day that Pistorius shot his girlfriend thinking she was an intruder, Ms Burger said: “It can’t be because it is not what we heard.”

The events she claims to have overheard paint a markedly different picture to Oscar Pistorius’s account, a story he indicated he will be sticking to in the strongest possible terms.

In a dark suit, black tie and white shirt Oscar Pistorius rose only to speak the words “not guilty, my lady” on four separate occasions, as the state prosecutor read out four separate charges against him. One is that he “intentionally killed” Reeva Steenkamp. The other three are comparatively minor firearms charges - that he discharged a gun through the open sun roof of a car and in a Johannesburg restaurant, and had illegal ammunition at his home - incidents that may be important when the state attempts to portray him as volatile, reckless and obsessed with guns.

In a statement read to the court by Kenny Oldwage, a member of his defence team, Pistorius said that he and Reeva Steenkamp were in a "loving relationship" and "that I would want to shoot or kill Reeva cannot be further from the truth".

The state claims that Ms Steenkamp was deliberately killed by Pistorius after an argument at his Pretoria home, which he again vehemently denied. “There was no argument. I will deny this in the strongest possible terms,” he said.

 

Pistorius’s defence counsel Barry Roux was extremely hostile in his questioning of Dr Burger, suggesting the noises she heard were not gunfire, but the sound of Pistorius breaking down the bathroom door with a cricket bat, and the high-pitched screams that sounded like a female voice was in fact a highly anguished Pistorius.

“Do you believe the man?” Roux asked her. “Or do you believe that Oscar Pistorius lied at the bail application? I have asked you this question five times and you haven’t answered it.”

He also took her to task for what he felt were discrepancies between the statement she had given police and the claims she made in court. There is no mentions of “blood-curdling screams and rising levels of anxiety” in her police statement, merely that she “heard a scream.”

But Dr Burger stuck rigidly to her story, that the was “100 per cent sure” that the sound she heard was gunfire. “I know what gunshot sounds like,” she said.

Questions over Pistorius’s character will form a central part of the case as it unfolds in the coming weeks, and Pistorius’s team made plain they will fight hard to prevent such evidence being admitted.

“The only purpose of admitting character evidence would be an attempt to engineer an assassination of my character,” his statement said. “During the course of the trial my lawyers will object to the admittance of such character evidence.

Prosecutors are still hopeful of gaining access to messages on Pistorius’s iPhone, which they hope will shed light on what may have happened in the final hours before Ms Steenkamp’s death. They are currently trying to secure a US court order to instruct Apple to unlock the phone, as the password provided by Pistorius’s legal team has not worked. They admit it is a “fishing expedition”, but they hope that messages contained on the phone may reveal the cause of arguments reportedly overheard in Pistorius’s home in the hours before the shooting happened.

If convicted of murder he will almost certainly receive a life sentence, with a minimum term of 25 years. If he is found not guilty on the murder charge, he will likely face a charge of ‘culpable homicide’ - South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, for which the sentence could range from a suspended, non-custodial sentence, to 15 years in jail.

Read more: Oscar Pistorius trial: World’s media descends on North Gauteng as murder case opens
Oscar Pistorius trial: No jury for athlete, just a single judge and 24-hour news
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: what should we expect?
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game