News / Africa

    As Pistorius Murder Trial Begins, Neighbor Describes Hearing 'Blood-curdling' Screams

    Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, March 3, 2014.
    Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, March 3, 2014.
    Anita Powell
    A neighbor of  Oscar Pistorius described hearing "blood-curdling" screams the night the South African athlete shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

    Pistorius' long-awaited murder trial got under way Monday with the double amputee athlete pleading not guilty to all charges against him stemming from the Feb. 14, 2013, shooting death of Steenkamp.

    Pistorius, 27, responded, "Not guilty, my lady," to every charge before Judge Thokozile Masipa.

    He looked calmer during this court appearance than he did a year ago during a tear-soaked, trembling appearance just days after he shot his model girlfriend dead at his Pretoria home.

    Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.
    x
    Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.
    Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.
    He doesn't deny shooting Steenkamp. The trial is about his intent. Pistorius claims he mistook his girlfriend of three months for an intruder and did not mean to kill her when he shot four times through a locked bathroom door. 

    The prosecution says they will prove premeditated murder. 

    The state called the first of 107 witnesses, Michelle Burger, a neighbor of Pistorius who described what she heard on the evening of the shooting.

    Burger, whose home is 177 meters from Pistorius', said she was awakened by a woman's "blood-curdling" screams, followed by a man's cries for help. She then says she heard four gunshots, while the woman continued screaming.

    "She was very scared...her shouts, her screams were petrifying," Burger said. "Before the gunshots, moments before the gunshots, I sat in the bed and it's the most helpless feeling I've ever had in my life. I anticipated something was going to happen, because of the climax of her shouts, I knew something terrible was happening in that house."

    Burger testified she and her husband thought they were hearing a violent house break-in and called security. She said it only occurred to her later, upon seeing the news of the shooting at Pistorius' home, that that is what she had heard.

    The athlete's defense lawyer, Barry Roux, suggested Burger instead heard the sound of Pistorius breaking down the bathroom door with a cricket bat, consistent with his client's account of events.

    But Burger steadfastly stuck to her account.

    • Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, April 14, 2014.
    • Oscar Pistorius outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 10, 2014.
    • Jane Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp's mother is comforted by a relative after her dead daughter's picture was shown on screen during the trial of Oscar Pistorius at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 9, 2014.
    • Family members, including uncle Arnold Pistorius, right, cry as they listen to Oscar Pistorius testifying in court in Pretoria, April 8, 2014.
    • Oscar Pistorius becomes emotional during his trial at the high court in Pretoria, April 7, 2014.
    • Members of the public crowd around Oscar Pistorius as he leaves the high court, Pretoria, March 12, 2014.

    • Oscar Pistorius cries as he prays with his sister Aimee and brother Carl at his indictment at the magistrates court in Pretoria, August 19, 2013.
    • This aerial image taken from video provided by VNS24/7 shows the home of Oscar Pistorius in a gated housing complex in Pretoria, Feb. 14, 2013.
    • Olympian runner Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, Jan. 26, 2013.
    • Oscar Pistorius celebrates winning the men's 400 meter final during the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Sept. 8, 2012.

    The families of Pistorius and Steenkamp were also in court Monday, seated a few meters apart on opposite ends of a long bench.

    Legal experts predict the trial could take months and, given today's lengthy witness appearance, that appears likely.

    Pistorius shot to fame for being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics in 2012. He also has won medals at the Paralympic Games. 

    Parts of the trial are being televised live. A South African station has launched a 24-hour channel dedicated solely to the case.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: MPoss from: Palm Springs, CA
    March 03, 2014 1:53 PM
    This man wakes up in bed because he hears a sound coming from the bathroom which is a few feet away with the door closed - yet doesn't bother to turn his head to see if Reeva is still in bed with him - he notices his two watch dogs are peacefully sleeping and are not awakened by any break-in - yet, he doesn't ask "Reeva, are you in the bathroom?" - and immediately assumes it's a robber and "jumps the gun"... and starts shooting like a paranoid lunatic... And Legal experts predict the trial could take months? Huh? This man is guilty - he was in a fit of a jealous rage and believed that Reeva was going back to her previous relationship. Motive? If I can't have, no one else will... Question: Besides wearing shorts and a shirt, was Reeva wearing shoes when she was shot in the bathroom? Why? Perhaps she was getting ready to leave because they were quarreling but decided to freshen up before leaving his place?

    by: oskar from: south africa
    March 03, 2014 12:35 PM
    what likely happened is the argument escalated to the point where the assaults he committed to the victim were so great he determined murder to be a option, and then lie and claim a farce.

    Pistorius may his life in jail be long and full of interactions.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora